Is another general election in the offing? (Photo: Danny Lawson via PA Wire/PA Images)
The theory goes that, rather than face the upcoming privileges committee inquiry into whether he deliberately misled parliament over partygate, the prime minister will instead go to the country to seek a fresh mandate from voters.
Adding to the frenzy, the PM pointedly did not rule the prospect of an early election when repeatedly asked by journalists travelling with him to the Nato summit in Madrid.
“The idea hadn’t occurred to me, if you really want the truth, because I’m focused on getting through the cost-of-living pressures, developing and improving, widening, our plan for a stronger economy, and making sure that we continue to offer leadership on some of the tough global issues the world faces,” Johnson said.
Given the PM’s rather chequered history when it comes to telling the truth, political observers - and Conservative MPs - are taking his comments with a large pinch of salt.
Intriguingly, Tories in marginal constituencies were also told to submit their plans for the next election by today.
This is seen by some Conservatives as further proof that the PM is preparing to call an election, possibly as soon as September.
Unsurprisingly, Tory MPs - especially those in marginal constituencies - are less than enthusiastic at the prospect of another election.
“It’s like that scene in Blackadder Goes Fourth where they get sent a delivery of trench ladders that they never ordered,” one MP said. “It seems like Boris wants us to go over the top and walk towards the sound of machine gun fire - slowly, to give the enemy a sporting chance.”
It’s less than a month since Johnson survived a vote of no confidence in his leadership in which 41 per cent of his MPs tried to get rid of him.
Under the current Tory rules, he cannot be challenged for another year - although some of his opponents are already plotting to have them changed.
One MP told HuffPost UK: “If he tries to call an election, we’re going to have to blow his brains out - politically speaking, of course.”
Others are less concerned, however, and believe that even Johnson isn’t reckless enough to go to the country when his party are trailing in the polls.
One said: “I just can’t see it. We’d get screwed anyway, but the public never really reward parties that go to the polls if they don’t have to.”
An ex-minister suspects David Canzini, Johnson’s deputy chief of staff, of being behind the election rumours in order to shore up his boss’s position.
“Canzini wants to keep everyone on election footing as he thinks that will quell anymore talk of getting rid of the PM,” they said.
Another MP agreed: “I think they are just saying it to scare people into submission.”
A senior Tory source also tried to calm MPs’ jitters, telling HuffPost UK: “Elections like this one will take a very long time to plan. If we wanted an autumn election, we would have asked for MPs to submit their plans ages ago.”
But until Johnson definitively rules it out, the Westminster rumour mill will continue to turn - and Conservative MPs’ nerves will continue to jangle.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.