Senior Tory allies of Boris Johnson believe the former prime minister will be vindicated by the privileges committee inquiry and urged Rishi Sunak to bring him back into frontline politics.

Mr Johnson faces the prospect of being suspended from parliament and a potential by-election should he be found to have deliberately misled the Commons over the partygate scandal.

But his allies insist that he will be cleared of knowingly misleading MPs in 2021, allowing him to launch a political comeback.

One minister told i that they believed Mr Johnson still had a “big role to play” in the future for the Conservative Party, and called on the Prime Minister to give his predecessor a job.

“He remains the most powerful electoral force within the party — if we harness him right. No one can deliver the same level of optimism for the future as he can,” the MP added.

There remain deep misgivings among Mr Johnson’s biggest supporters over the way he was forced out of office, with the source insisting that their colleagues had “instant buyers’ remorse” once they had removed him from Downing Street.

“What happened to him was an insult. He has every right to feel insulted,” the Tory MP said.

Mr Johnson continues to have strong support among a hardcore of backbenchers, with his allies insisting he had the backing of 122 MPs to make a comeback when Liz Truss resigned as prime minister last year.

The call for Mr Sunak to bring Mr Johnson back into the fold comes after a source close to the former prime minister suggested to i that a comeback could be on the cards if he avoids any serious sanction from the privileges committee hearing.

The source said that should Mr Johnson navigate the inquiry and its evidence session on Wednesday adeptly then it would “generate further considerable interest in his political future”.

Mr Sunak is highly unlikely to offer his predecessor a route back to frontline politics, however, as he seeks to make stability a central pillar to his administration.

It comes after a Tory election expert insisted any return of Mr Johnson as leader of the Conservatives would damage the party’s electoral chances.

Lord Hayward, a polling expert, said on Monday that claims from MPs that Mr Johnson would boost their electoral chances were inaccurate.

“It would transform it in a negative way, not in a positive way,” the Tory peer said.

“Having had two different prime minister changes last year, there is no credibility whatsoever that we would have another one and not say the Tory party is finished. It would be an utter joke… The electorate would not accept another change.”

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