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'Boris Johnson is Boris Johnson': Minister defends PM after pledge not to change
26 June 2022, 12:52 | Updated: 26 June 2022, 12:58
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has defended Boris Johnson's pledge not to 'psychologically transform' following two by-election defeats and the resignation of the Tory Party chairman.
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Speaking to Tom Swarbrick, Mr Lewis said Mr Johnson had been elected with an "overwhelming majority" and said there was "no point in pretending he's somebody else".
"We as a party elected Boris Johnson with an overwhelming majority in 2019, he's somebody who has won elections both as London mayor and now in a general election," he said.
"He's been very honest about the fact that Boris Johnson is Boris Johnson.
"There's no point in pretending he's somebody else, he is somebody who's Prime Minister, he's focussed on the country."
His comments came after Mr Johnson said yesterday that he was not going to undergo a "psychological transformation" because of the loss of two by-elections and his Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden.
"If you're saying you want me to undergo some sort of psychological transformation, I think that our listeners would know that is not going to happen," he told the BBC.
"What you can do, and what the Government should do, and what I want to do, is to get on with changing and reforming and improving our systems and our economy."
Mr Lewis also defended Mr Johnson after he said he was planning on being in power for another decade.
"This is a Prime Minister who's looking at the long-term structural changes that we need to make, want to make, for the benefit of our country across the economy, the jobs, and structurally across the country as well, and that does take more time," he said.
"I think it's good that we've got somebody with the enthusiasm and determination to think long-term as well as keeping an eye on the immediate issues that we need to deal with."
The coming weeks could see Mr Johnson unveil a new six point plan to get his premiership back on track as he told reporters during a trip to Rwanda that he could see himself serving a third term as PM into the 2030s.
But it would follow past attempts at reboots following the damaging Partygate scandal and the failed attempt to oust him during the last Tory vote of confidence in him.
The Sunday Times reports this new attempt at revitalising his Mr Johnson's premiership will consist of a plan to curb inflation; to boost growth; to help with cost of living issues; to improve families' economic security; to invest in public services; to invest in people and skills.
Downing Street is considering pitching these priorities in a joint speech with Mr Johnson and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, by mid-July. Neither has enjoyed a good first half to 2022.
While the PM has been told cut taxes to help people deal with the cost of living crisis, it is understood both men believe that will have to wait until inflation has peaked.
Boris Johnson has also confirmed he is aiming to remain as Prime Minister into the 2030s.
Asked if he will lead the Tories into the next election, he said: "Will I win? Yes.
"I am thinking actively about the third term and what could happen then, but I will review that when I get to it."
He added: "About the third term - you mean this is the mid-2030s."
He told reporters he wanted to drive forward with his "colossal" levelling up policy.
But any reboot will need his ministers onside.
One member of the cabinet who listed to Mr Johnson's speech at a Tory fundraiser at the Victoria and Albert museum was quoted as telling a minister: "Did you listen to that? Wasn't it appalling?"
Another unnamed minister said separately: "The bond of trust is broken between the PM and the party and the PM and the voters.
"He got Brexit done, he handled Covid fine and got the vaccine programme and he's done well on Ukraine, but people think he's a liar and a shady bugger and that's binary, it's black and white.
"Nothing about the cost of living is going to change that."
After losing Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats and seeing Wakefield turn back to Labour, Mr Johnson said he was not going to change psychologically.
He said people are "not hearing enough about the things that really matter to them" and told Sky News: "People were absolutely fed up hearing about things I stuffed up."
"They wanted to hear... what is this guy doing."
He will be paying close attention to the outcome of the votes for a new executive of the 1922 Committee, the group of Tory backbenchers and the organisers of confidence votes in Conservative leaders.
Existing rules say that having won the last vote another cannot be held for a year, but MPs have called for a change that would allow for another one before then.
Such a decision could be taken by a new executive hostile to Mr Johnson.
The election is due to be held before Parliament breaks for recess from July 21.