By Peter Hoskin
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Yep, Boris’s blond shock of hair is still sprouting out of the newspapers today. The Sunday Telegraph carries an interview with the Mayor of London in which he goes even further than usual in telling the government what they should do (more supply-side reform, another airport, more houses, etc. etc.). And there are also a couple of polls that focus on what it might mean, electorally, if Boris became Tory leader. One is by ICM for the Sunday Telegraph, the other is by YouGov for the Sun on Sunday.
The ICM poll is being sold as a “reality check” — when respondents were presented with the prospect of Boris replacing David Cameron it only increased the Conservatives’ standing by one percentage point. But the YouGov poll is one to keep BoJo’s Big Mo rolling on, not least because it suggests that his appeal stretches beyond the Capital and beyond traditional Tory voters. Compared to Mr Cameron, he appears to be more popular in areas such as the Midlands, Wales, the North and Scotland. And as the Sun also points out:
“One in ten Labour voters admits they would be more likely to back the Tories if [Boris] was at the helm. This compares with just one in 100 who think David Cameron could persuade them to switch.
Nearly a quarter of Lib Dems — 22 per cent — would be more likely to vote Conservative if Boris led the party.”
What’s more, the paper reports that 24 per cent of people now regard Boris more positively than they did before the Olympic Games. The full results of the poll haven’t been published on the YouGov website yet, but it looks as though they will reinforce the idea that if any political figure has gained from this Olympics — other than Seb Coe — it is Boris.
This is a point that Douglas Carswell also makes, speaking to the Sun about their poll. “Forget those ridiculous figures Wenlock and Mandeville,” he says, “The real Olympic mascot is Boris Johnson.” And he goes further than that, too, to suggest that the Conservatives should follow the Mayor of London’s example:
“In many ways he’s from a similar background to other senior party figures. But he’s clearly doing something that makes him appeal to people who aren’t natural Tories.
It has to be a measure of his authenticity and the fact he is very much his own man. Boris always means what he says and says what he means — and this has to be the future for the Tory party.
If we are to win the election, we have to stop producing people who simply recycle old grandee policies and show that, like Boris, we stand up for communities we represent. Authenticity is gold dust in politics and this poll shows Boris has it in spades.”
One of the most intriguing questions for Krelimolgists now is whether such talk continues into the party conference and beyond, or whether it fades as the Olympics recede into memory. If it continues, then the dangers for David Cameron will be immense. It’s not so much the prospect of Boris becoming leader before the next election — a prospect I regard as less likely than Tim does — but the destabilising effect that constant speculation can have, just as it did for Gordon Brown. Mr Cameron has been lucky so far, in that the argument about who should succeed him has been mostly held back for the future. Bouncing out of London's 2012, Boris could now change that.