By Tim Montgomerie
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"Boris wins, Tories lose" was the splash for later editions of Saturday's Times and it was true in London as much as in the rest of the country. Ken Livingstone wasn't as dreadful a candidate as some had thought – only under-performing Labour's London-wide vote by 0.87%. Boris, in contrast, out-performed the Tories' London Assembly vote by 12%.
For the Daily Mail it is clear why Boris prospers:
"Boris Johnson – a Eurosceptic who advocates a small state and low taxes and who, crucially, is not handcuffed to the Lib Dems – showed what can be achieved by sticking to core Conservative values. Yes, he was fighting a personality contest against an awful, antediluvian opponent in Ken Livingstone, but voters also recognised he’d slashed waste and frozen taxes in his first term in office."
Over at the New Statesman, however, Adam Bienkov warns Tories at jumping to such fast conclusions:
"Already the case is being built by many Tory-supporting commentators and politicians that Boris won because he is a “real Conservative” in favour of tax cutting, personal freedom and an aggressive attitude towards Europe. But what this fails to grasp is that while Boris preached all of these things to Daily Telegraph readers, he has not practised any of them in his main job as London Mayor. Far from being a radical Conservative reformer, Boris has almost entirely accepted the settlement left for him by Ken Livingstone at City Hall. Under Boris, spending on infrastructure, and the wages of Tube workers has risen whilst the mass bureaucracy at Transport for London has barely been touched… Some of the more unhinged elements of the Tory party believe that David Cameron’s support for gay marriage has cost them at this week’s elections. Yet in the one election where the party has done well, they have done so with a candidate who has not only championed gay rights but who actually led London’s Gay Pride march whilst wearing a pink Stetson."
Can you imagine what some Tories would say about Cameron if he led a gay pride march in a pink Stetson? Boris gets away with it somehow. Is it because most Tories give him the benefit of the doubt because they've always thought he was 'one of us'? Is Boris simply permitted to do this because he's Boris-the-entertainer? Is it understood that a Mayor of a very gay-friendly city has no choice?
I noted last week that Boris was the "Heineken Tory" – reaching so many non-Tory voters – because of his willingness to support some government interventions and his willingness to embrace London's multi-ethnic and gay communities.
My own view is that Boris Johnson wouldn't have won London if he was a conventional Conservative but he wouldn't have won it if he'd ignored Tory voters either. John Howard, former Australian PM and one of modern conservatism's most successful leaders, believes that you spend as much time reassuring your core vote as reaching out.
As I said in my Times article (£) yesterday: Cameron "must remember that he is in coalition with his own party as well as the Liberal Democrats." It's easier to invade enemy territory if you've first ensured your own army is well-fed and motivated.