Boris Johnson retreats to Chequers as he considers leaving politics at next election following Tory coup

Boris Johnson in the hallway of No 10 before delivering his resignation speech - Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street
Boris Johnson in the hallway of No 10 before delivering his resignation speech - Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

In the grand surroundings of Chequers that were enjoyed by 19 of his predecessors, Boris Johnson is considering his political future.

The Prime Minister has retreated with his wife Carrie and their two children to the 16th-century grace-and-favour home in the Buckinghamshire countryside that they will soon lose the privilege of using.

After a week that saw his own MPs and Cabinet revolt and force him from office, Mr Johnson is now thinking of leaving politics altogether.

Following a run of by-election defeats in southern Tory seats, Mr Johnson has decided he cannot force a by-election in his marginal constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

But two well-placed sources said he is now deciding whether to follow in the footsteps of his immediate predecessor, Theresa May, and remain in the Commons, or to stand down at the next election.

Mr Johnson has taken the betrayal of many of his own ministers “in sorrow, not in anger”, and is described by aides as mournful he cannot finish the job he set out to achieve in 2019.

Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie are thinking about their future - Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street
Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie are thinking about their future - Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Now, he may instead choose to return to the writing and after-dinner speaking that provided him with a lucrative income before he joined the Tory front bench in 2016.

“He’s taking this weekend to think about it. I don’t think he’s decided yet,” said one insider.

Another said: “He is taking stock and seeing where we are. He is not standing down now, but that’s not saying he will stand again.”

The moment of defeat came on Thursday morning, when Mr Johnson finally acknowledged he could not fight off the rebels trying to destroy his government, and accepted that he had been forced to resign.

Although his wife had “recognised the reality of the situation” on Wednesday, after “seeing where things were going,” she insisted the final decision to leave their home in Downing Street must be her husband’s, according to those close to her.

‘Boris was self-destructive’

The Prime Minister rose early and wrote his resignation speech, delivered it to the waiting press, and returned back inside, where he was greeted by his son Wilfred and a core group of remaining supporters who had little to gain from their show of loyalty.

“If you look at the MPs who came to Downing Street in the end, that’s a group of people who thought he was f— over,” said one ally.

“And they’re probably the sort of people who will go to hell and back for him.”

As they filed into Mr Johnson’s office for a lunch of supermarket sandwiches, and staff took photographs with him for the last time, the MPs present felt a “sad inevitability” about his departure.

“People were saying to each other that the party is making a mistake, but also that Boris was self-destructive,” said a source.

“That’s kind of the sadness of it all as well. Boris was self-destructive and almost goaded MPs into doing it by this point.”

Uncertainty around living arrangements

Free from the pressure of clinging to office while a series of sleaze scandals broke around him, Mr Johnson now has time to consider what he will do next.

According to those around him, one of the most “stressful” questions is where he and his young family will live when they move out of their painstakingly-renovated flat above No 11 Downing Street and lose access to Chequers.

The Prime Minister and his family will lose access to Chequers - Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street
The Prime Minister and his family will lose access to Chequers - Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

Mr Johnson’s own country home in Oxfordshire is rented out, and new tenants have just moved into the South London house he bought with his wife before taking office in July 2019.

A Westminster source joked darkly that it is a shame that the Government has banned landlords from evicting tenants without good reason, as it might now stop Mr Johnson from finding somewhere to live.

At his Oxfordshire farm house on Saturday there was no sign of removal vans or any suggestion the current tenants have been asked to move on.

Boris Johnson owns a property in Thame, Oxfordshire - Aaron Chown/ PA Archive
Boris Johnson owns a property in Thame, Oxfordshire - Aaron Chown/ PA Archive

But there is concern that Camberwell, a Labour stronghold, would be a miserable place for the pair to live after leaving office.

“I do not want him to move to bloody Camberwell,” said an ally.

“I’m sure the house is nice but it just doesn’t doesn’t feel right, him living there surrounded by people that hate him. I think he’d be better off going to Oxfordshire.”

Career change

Another consideration for the couple is what Mr Johnson will do for work when he has left Downing Street.

The Prime Minister’s financial woes are no secret, following the “wallpapergate” incident that saw Lord Brownlow donate money to pay for a luxuriant renovation of the No 11 flat.

Even if he remains in the Commons as a backbench MP, Mr Johnson will lose his ministerial salary that tops up his earnings from £84,144 to £164,080.

But he will regain the ability to make money from outside Parliament, and may consider returning to a lucrative pre-ministerial career writing books and delivering speeches.

The Prime Minister may return to a lucrative pre-ministerial career writing books and delivering speeches - Gareth Fuller/PA
The Prime Minister may return to a lucrative pre-ministerial career writing books and delivering speeches - Gareth Fuller/PA

Hodder and Stoughton, a publisher, is reportedly still waiting for a manuscript from Mr Johnson on the life of William Shakespeare, which had been intended for publication to coincide with the 400-year anniversary of the bard’s death in 2016.

The book deal came attached to an £88,000 advance, but the publisher later “agreed that we would delay publication until a more suitable time” following his appointment as Foreign Secretary.

Guto Harri, Mr Johnson’s director of communications, denied rumours he had been keeping notes from his five months in Downing Street with the intention of publishing a memoir.

Sir Tony Blair’s memoir, a Journey, is thought to have earned him up to £5 million, while his spin doctor Alastair Campbell has written an eight-volume diary about his time in office and beyond.

Another option would be for Mr Johnson to return to after-dinner speaking, which previously netted him up to £50,000 in a single evening.

“Like most of his predecessors, from Churchill to Blair, he’ll be in great demand outside his own country,” said his former agent, Jeremy Lee.

“In commercial terms, Johnson’s a global brand with a reputation for colourful speeches – I can see audiences from the US to Asia in the palm of his hand.”

A government source added wryly: “If Theresa May is making 60 grand per speech, then I think Boris will probably be okay.”

Hope remains

Although the Tory leadership contest that will decide his successor has now consumed Westminster, there are those who still believe Mr Johnson has not made his last political move.

On Saturday night, a spokesman was forced to deny rumours that he intended to stand again for the leadership, despite the Conservative Party’s own rules banning those who have resigned from running again.

“I kind of want him to come back, almost like Trump,” said one supporter. “I think it’d be great.”

Although some of his staff have spent much of this week crying, privately Mr Johnson is said to be sanguine about the abrupt end to his premiership and his uncertain future.

Reflecting on his demise, he joked with colleagues that he will fight on like a “Japanese holdout” who fought on long after the end of the Second World War.

“I wouldn’t describe him as down or hangdog,” said a colleague.

“He’s been very upbeat, all things considered.”