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Johnson ‘clearly an asset’ to campaign as ex-PM set to go on holiday

The former prime minister is no longer expected to join the Tories on the campaign trail.

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Boris Johnson meets President Nicolas Maduro

Boris Johnson is “clearly an asset” to the Tory election campaign, a Cabinet minister has insisted, after it emerged the former prime minister is no longer expected to appear on the trail.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said the former Conservative leader is offering support in the “modern way” by making promotional videos for individual candidates from afar.

“That’s probably quite an effective way of getting a message across,” Mr Stride told Sky News.

(left to right) Farmer David Chugg, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, parliamentary candidate for North Devon Selaine Saxby and Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron during a visit to a farm in Devon, while on the General Election campaign trail
The Conservatives have focused their campaign on blue-wall seats in the south of England this week rather than red-wall seats that switched to the Tories in 2019 (Ben Birchall/PA)

“I mean, Boris is clearly an asset to the campaign, he has clearly chosen to get involved and he’s clearly urging people to vote Conservatives.”

Mr Johnson, who turns 60 on Wednesday, is now not expected to go out on the stump in the next two weeks, but has been writing letters of endorsement and backing a number of Tories in social media posts.

It is understood he will instead be taking a holiday in the coming days, though the trip was planned long in advance of Rishi Sunak calling a surprise summer election.

His team says he has acted in line with what party headquarters have asked him to do to support the campaign.

The former prime minister led the Tories to a landslide victory in 2019, which collapsed the so-called “red wall” in the Midlands and North of England.

The Times reported that an original plan to deploy Mr Johnson to such constituencies has been abandoned amid bleak projections for the party that continue to put it on course for a historic defeat at the polls on July 4.

The Conservatives have concentrated their campaign this week in the traditional Tory heartlands in southern England, where they hope to defend seats against the threat of Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The PM, whose resignation as chancellor in Mr Johnson’s Cabinet was instrumental in his downfall, said his endorsements “will make a difference” as a poll on Tuesday found that the party could be reduced to just 115 seats.

Mr Sunak has said the endorsements are being coordinated by Tory HQ, but Andrea Jenkyns, a staunch Johnson ally standing in the seat of Leeds South West and Morley, suggested his support was more targeted.

“Boris has helped candidates who have reached out to him as you’ve seen with the videos online,” she said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“He’s (Mr Johnson) keen to help those of us that have been loyal to him. But he’s NOT an official part of the campaign. Rishi hasn’t spoken to him since the campaign began.”

During an LBC phone-in on Wednesday, Mr Sunak avoided answering questions about whether Mr Johnson would join him on the trail.

On being told it was the former prime minister’s birthday, he responded: “Happy birthday Boris. I hope he’s having a good day… And it has been great having him support the Conservative Party”.

Asked by journalists during a campaign visit to East Anglia whether Mr Johnson’s absence from the trail would be preferable given he may not appeal to so-called “blue wall” voters, Mr Sunak said: “No.”

He added: “I’m grateful he’s supporting the Conservative Party. He’s provided lots of endorsements to candidates across the country.”

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