‘He’s full of hot air’: voters in Johnson’s seat unsure about his comeback | Boris Johnson

On her way to get a flu jab in Uxbridge town centre, Debbie Cusmans, 57, spots a reporter with a notebook. “Bring back Boris!” she shouts, with a grin and a thumbs-up. “Make sure you get that in.”

We are in Johnson’s west London constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, where he has been MP since 2015. It has been a Conservative seat since its creation in 2010: he won here with a majority of 5,034 in 2017 and 7,210 in 2019, by which time he was prime minister. On Saturday, as the rumour mill raged about whether he would attempt a return to No 10, locals were contemplating a potential further spell with a PM who’s also their local MP..

Some, like Cusmans, see that as a positive thing. The former trapeze artist says Johnson helped her when she was facing eviction a few years ago and believes he had done a good job, for both Uxbridge and the UK. “They should give him the chance of coming back. The people elected him, so let him stay,” she says. She believes Rishi Sunak, the bookies’ favourite to succeed Liz Truss, “stabbed Boris in the back. So how can we trust him?”

Debbie Cusmans was keen for Johnson to return to No 10. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Market stallholder Jamie Follett, 37, shares that sentiment. He wants Johnson to return and describes Sunak as a “weasel” and a “snake”. The issue of Johnson’s trustworthiness – and the investigation into whether he lied to parliament over parties during the pandemic – is not one that concerns him. “They all lie, so it’s who tells more lies. Maybe Boris having to resign means he’s learned a bit of a lesson and will come back as a better prime minister, and a better man in general.”

Others are less enthusiastic about a potential comeback. IT manager Orest Bakhovski, 35, an Uxbridge resident of six years, wants a “normal” MP who focused on constituents.

The father of two is part of a group of parents opposing a decision by the council to close its early years centres, which could leave families like his hundreds of pounds worse off. MPs in neighbouring constituencies had taken up the issue, Bakhovski says – but not Johnson, who cancelled a meeting with parents last month.

“It’s really disappointing. Especially recently it just feels like … when times are really tough for families, we’ve not been represented at all,” says Bakhovski, who has voted both Labour and Conservative. Since his departure from Downing Street Johnson had been absent, Bakhovski says. “He just jetted off and wasn’t interested in his constituents. He’s a bit of a vacant MP.”

NHS mental health worker Alex Sim, who ran as a Labour candidate in the last local election, adds: “Suddenly now there’s a leadership vacuum and [Johnson] must heroically fly back. But he’s certainly not been heroically flying back or even participating in discussions with constituents who have concerns.”

Catherine McCarthy, 72, believes standards in politics broke down under Johnson. “He’s always going on holidays and looking after his own interests,” she says. “He’s only interested in himself, really. He’s full of hot air.”

Orest Bachovski and his daughter Emilia. ‘He’s a bit of a vacant MP,’ said Bakhovski.Orest Bachovski and his daughter Emilia. ‘He’s a bit of a vacant MP,’ said Bakhovski. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

The former Conservative voter does not favour Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt – or Labour: “I’m very disillusioned; let’s put it like that.” But if Johnson were to return as PM it would be a disaster. “They’re living in a parallel universe if they think people want him back.”

Ben Baird, 81, who is selling balloons outside the underground station a few steps away, wants a Johnson return. “Whether he’d want to come back I don’t know but if it wasn’t for Boris the Conservatives wouldn’t even be in,” he says.

Longstanding Conservative voters Mick and Paula Flynn, who are walking their dog Stella, believe Johnson did a good job as PM, but share concerns that a return to No 10 would mean less focus on local matters such as litter and crime.

The area is looking “tired”, they say, and Mick’s tools have recently been stolen from his van. “If he goes back to being prime minister he probably hasn’t got time,” says Paula, 53. “So it’d be better if we had an MP that wasn’t prime minister: you’d feel they’d have more time for their own area.” But, she adds: “Is it better the devil you know?”

Mick, 50, did not support a Johnson return and thought Sunak “needs a chance”. “They’re all useless, to be honest. But I think he’ll do a better job. He’s got a better head.” Whoever won, things could not get any worse, he said. “Truss was just a joke. I’d rather Boris. I think I’d rather anyone.”


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