By Tim Montgomerie
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Boris Johnson is loved by ConHome readers. In our end-year readers' survey he came second only to Margaret Thatcher as the politician that members felt, ideologically, closest to. This is understandable given his views on Europe, tax and crime but Boris is no cardboard cut-out Tory. His support for an immigration amnesty and a much higher minimum wage are examples of his very independent worldview. Nonetheless he topped a slightly frivolous poll we ran asking who members would vote for if there was a party leadership race tomorrow. Boris Johnson won 34% against William Hague's 26%. Gove won 18%, Osborne 13%, Jeremy Hunt 5% and Theresa May 3%.
There is an enormous expectation that Boris will be re-elected in May. 26% of members said he'd "definitely" be re-elected and 68% said "probably". That adds up to a staggering 94%. Frankly, I think that's bordering on the dangerously complacent. London is a Labour-leaning city. We learnt that at the general election when some very good candidates failed to win seats that, on a national average swing, should have been Tory gains.
It's true that opinion polls give Boris Johnson a modest lead and we know that many Labour voters are "Boris Reds" but if I had the choice of running Labour's campaign or the Tory campaign I think I'd choose Labour's. While Boris is loved by many Londoners in a way that no other contemporary politician can match the Coalition is much less popular in London. Ken Livingstone's aim must be to turn the election into a referendum on David Cameron and his policies. He began doing that in yesterday's Guardian in an article entitled "A referendum on Osbornomics". Mr Livingstone wrote:
"The mayoral election this May is the biggest electoral contest this side of the general election. When they vote, those who have lost their jobs, or have seen their student fees soar, can protest at the actions of the Tory-led government… Rather than resist Osbornomics, [Boris Johnson] boasts that he has moved further and faster to make cuts. He is a Conservative whose re-election is the number one priority for his party leader."
Just before Christmas the London Evening Standard was leaked a Labour tactics document which set out the strategy of painting Boris Johnson as a "true blue" Tory. Labour literature will portray Boris as "a Conservative mayor who meets bankers more than police; describes his £250,000-a-year second salary as 'chicken feed' but does not hesitate to raise fares". Those themes were repeated in Livingstone's Guardian piece.
Boris has a long list of achievements and a reputation for independence. His optimism is also a huge contrast with Ken Livingstone's snarling manner. But victory really cannot be taken for granted. If you are in London you can volunteer for Boris here. If you live further afield you can please donate to his campaign.