By Joseph Willits
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After yesterday's YouGov poll which placed Boris Johnson two points behind Ken Livingstone in the race to become London's Mayor, a timely interview today in the Sun demonstrates Boris' ability yet again to draw on the national interest in jobs and immigration, and develop a balanced message for his electoral campaign.
Whilst Government figures have revealed that 370,000 migrants are claiming benefits in the UK, and unemployment has hit a seventeen year high of 2.68 million, it would seem an obvious, not to mention populist choice, for Johnson to claim that immigration has failed and is damaging the jobs market for young Brits.
Instead, Boris chose to focus his attention on the lack of "energy and appetite" among young people in the UK to go out to work. Johnson said that he did not "want to stigmatise young people because many of them do have the aptitude. But we need to face up to these issues". At the same time, he cited the increasingly popular analogy of Pret A Manger and work ethic from their foreign staff:
"Look at Pret a Manger. If you've been to one recently, how many native Londoners served you? What's going on? London is a fantastic creator of jobs — but many of these jobs are going to people who don't originate in this country. They are hard-working, good people, and we need to learn from them and understand what it is that they have got that makes them able to get those jobs that young Londoners don't have."
While there will be those that say that Boris' comments will add to the perception that he is out of touch with the electorate (as suggested in the poll) and that his comments about work ethics are ill advised at the time of a 17 year high in unemployment, a populist message about good old fashioned grafting may appeal to elements of the working class and migrant communities, and reclaim some of the Labour vote he has held previously.