Just three years after leading the Conservatives to their biggest election victory in 30 years, Boris Johnson is stepping down as prime minister. The man who dreamed of being a “world king” as a child is now planning his next career step.
However, according to his biographer Andrew Gimson, Johnson was not the type of person who would go to the countryside to work for the good of the local parish and live in “blameless obscurity”.
So, when his successor is already clear, the question of what Boris Johnson will do after tomorrow is even more curious.
Back to writing
Before entering politics, Johnson built a career as a journalist. He continued to write for newspapers and magazines, meanwhile climbing the steps to Westminster. And he abandoned these activities immediately before assuming the post of prime minister.
To write his weekly column for the Daily Telegraph, Johnson was paid 275,000 pounds a year, the BBC recalled, and predicted that it is quite possible that the media will enter into a battle for the services of the former prime minister.
He might also be tempted to write the memoir, a guaranteed payoff for politicians of this rank. Literary agents estimate that Johnson could be offered a premium of up to £1m to chronicle his time in power in a book.
And this occupation will be no stranger to him, Johnson has eight books under his belt – if you count the collections of his newspaper columns, as well as the best-selling biography of his hero Winston Churchill and the political satire Seventy-Two Virgins.
His first task after Downing Street, however, will be to finally finish the biography of William Shakespeare, which he has been writing for seven years. Publishers Hodder & Stoughton bought the rights to Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius in 2015 for £500,000.
The book was due out in 2016. But winning the Brexit vote, taking over as foreign secretary and then prime minister messed up Johnson’s writing schedule.
His own biographer Andrew Gimson defines Shakespeare’s work as dealing with the subject “of power and when it is right to rebel and kill a king”. In this context, Johnson, who became the target of fierce criticism from his own party members, may have more than a good and already ready ending to his book.
It is one of the ways former prime ministers earn. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, pocketed £715,000 from just nine speeches in 2022.
And the outgoing prime minister’s comedic talent makes him a hot favorite. However, it is not excluded that he will take a more serious path – in March 2019, in the time between the ministerial and prime ministerial posts, he received more than 160,000 pounds for giving two speeches. One in front of a bank and the other in front of an Indian media group.
No doubt he will be writing and talking a lot,” says Lord Woodney-Lister, Johnson’s long-time adviser.
Lord Woodney-Lister, who was Johnson’s chief of staff both as London mayor and as prime minister, expects his one-time boss to “talk about subjects close to his heart” after he steps down . One such may be that of Ukraine, where the collapse of the Western alliance is beginning to creep in.
The financial benefits of a speaking career are substantial for the former prime minister, says Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. According to him, “by all indications, Boris Johnson is obsessed with money and the lack of it against the backdrop of so many of his friends.”
He will do everything possible to rectify this situation.”
Will he step back from politics?
There has been much speculation as to whether Johnson will remain an MP, but it seems unlikely that the next prime minister will offer him a cabinet job. So that would mean a return to the backbenches – something he has done before after political setbacks, after all.
Whatever happens, Johnson will be barred from directly lobbying the government for two years after leaving office, under the Ministerial Code.
“I can’t see him leaving Parliament so quickly,” Lord Woodney-Lister said. “But I don’t think he’s just going to sit back and throw stones from the back bench.”
One of the main questions is whether Johnson will be proven to have misled parliament about Downing Street parties during the COVID lockdowns. If it does, it could cost him removal from the House of Commons, and it is not certain that he will also retain his seat in Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the next election.
A political comeback
Some have speculated whether Johnson could return to lead the Conservative Party. According to Prof Bale, a scholar of Tory history, he is not ruling it out, but said it would mean the party would be “pretty desperate”.
I will be seriously worried about the future of the Conservative Party if Boris Johnson comes back,” he pointed out.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a longtime Johnson ally who did not want him to step down, recently pointed out that no one has come back from losing the leadership since William Gladstone.
Whatever he does…
… as former Prime Minister Johnson will receive £115,000 a year for public expenses such as office and secretarial services.
Whatever he does, I think he’ll be very busy, he can’t stand being idle,” Gimson commented.
Prof. Bale agrees, adding, “Political campaigning, comebacks and making money can go hand in hand.”