By Charles MaggsFollow @charlesmaggs
Boris Johnson could be in a position to return to parliament as early as next year in preparation for a leadership bid, Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries has said.
The prominent critic of David Cameron suggested a set of poor election results could prompt at-risk Tory Mps to swap leaders before going to the polls in 2015.
"If we get kicked to death in the Corby by-election, if we go into next May and the local elections go badly for us, if we do badly in the European elections in 2014, I think a lot of MPs on small majorities who have been very supportive of Cameron and Osborne until now will see 2015 looming and say: 'who's going to pay the mortgage in June 2015'," she told politics.co.uk.
"They may realise that Boris - who I am very, very supportive of for the leadership - who could bring us an extra 50 Tory MPs, might be a good option."
She added: "I think we will see moves from Boris during the summer of 2013 and probably have him in parliament by 2014. And if we have Boris in parliament by 2014, I think he will be in a position to move."
Johnson has committed himself to remaining London mayor until 2016, when his current term ends, but he is very popular among the grass roots of the party and is seen by many as a major electoral asset.
His commitment to the mayoralty is not a problem according to Dorries, who does not see a difficulty with 'BoJo' having two jobs.
"I think Boris will probably serve all of his term as London mayor, but he may serve the two years as London mayor while he's still an MP as well, in the same way Ken Livingstone did."
Johnson previously balanced two jobs as MP for Henley and editor of The Spectator magazine, until accepting a position as shadow arts minister under Michael Howard in 2004.