Cabinet Minister Says It Is A "Good Thing" Boris Johnson Wants To Win A Third Term As Leader
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said Boris Johnson is the "right person" to lead the Conservatives into the next election and that it was a "good thing" he wanted to stay on.
The Prime Minister has said he is "thinking actively" about a third term and is confident of winning the next election, despite difficult results at two recent by-elections.
Speaking to Trevor Phillips on Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Lewis said Johnson had the "zest and enthusiasm to deliver for the country".
"I think Boris Johnson is the right person to take us into the next general election. I think he will do that successfully," he said.
"He's proven that time and again, where people have written him off, both before London elections and before in the 2019 election, and then we've been able to come back and win, and win successfully. And I think he's got the ability to do that."
Lewis continued: "What I see is somebody whose got that drive and enthusiasm for what we want to achieve for our country.
Johnson told reporters during a trip to Kigali, Rwanda — where he has been at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting — that he was hoping to lead the country following the next election in 2024.
"At the moment I'm thinking actively about the third term and what could happen then, but I will review that when I get to it," he said.
Downing Street sources have subsequently claimed that the Prime Minister could have been joking.
Speaking on Sunday, Lewis said of Johnson's comments that "having that ability to look forward is a good thing.
"This is somebody I think who is capable of winning a general election, delivering for our country," he added.
Questions had been raised over the future of Johnson's leadership after the party faced a double by-election defeat on Friday.
The party lost the seat of Wakefield in West Yorkshire to Labour, while the Liberal Democrats overturned a majority of more than 24,000 in Tiverton and Honiton.
Lewis admitted that the losses were "a bad set of results," but he insisted that the blow was just a normal part of the electoral cycle, claiming such results do "happen sometimes midterm".
"There's no denying it was a set of results we've got to look carefully at and learn from," he said.
"What we've got to do, as has happened before, where we've seen by-election results go one way and then a following general election go a very different way, you can't extrapolate... a by-election result into a general election result.
"It's been proven time and again to not work that way."
Speaking on Friday, however, leading pollster Lord Hayward said the challenge facing the government was much “broader" than midterm blues, and suggested that Johnson’s character may be a leading cause in the two losses.
“There's no question that Boris, from all the reports, was coming up on the doorstep in both Wakefield and Tiverton and that is the issue,” he told PoliticsHome.
This was echoed by James Johnson, co-founder of JL Partners and former head of polling for Downing Street under Theresa May, who agreed that voters in both Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton were largely driven to vote against the Tories by anger with Johnson.
“We've got to look at this in connection with everything else that we know from the polls, from the other by-elections, and from the local elections," he explained.
"That, to me, seems to paint a very clear picture that this is not just a midterm blues effect.”
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