Sunday, 6 April 2008

Don't call him Boris

The Sunday Times is claiming that an instruction has gone out to Labour ministers not to refer to Conservative mayoral candidate for London Boris Johnson by his first name. It is apparently felt that such familiarity gives him a more favourable image with electors rather like a celebrity. Of course, one of the few other politicians referred to and recognisable by his first name is Labour's candidate Ken Livingstone.

One poll this week suggested that the gap, at least in terms of first preferences, between the two candidates had narrowed to 2 per cent, although another by YouGov showed a 10 per cent gap. One can expect some varying poll results in this campaign given that many electors will not vote and others seem to have difficulty in making their mind up who to vote for.

Dave Cameron has been sufficiently impressed by how Bozza is doing to join him on the campaign trail for the first time and describe him as a 'brilliant' candidate. Ken Livingstone is, of course, facing further revelations about his private life. Some might say that this will have little effect in a sophisticated city like London, others would argue that it raises issues about trust and judgement.

There is something of a stronger anti-politician mood among the electorate at the moment, reinforced by the revelations of MPs' expenses. What is remarkable about the information disclosed so far is the variability of the claims made by MPs. Of course, most of us could not make such claims, but then probably directors of multinational companies have similar perks, it is just that they are not visible.

Of course, we should expect (even if we often do not get) high standards of conduct from public figures. Nevertheless, if second homes (either in London or the constituency) were not subsidised for most MPs, becoming a MP would be restricted to the relatively prosperous even more than it is already.

These developments, together with a strong undercurrent of public concern about crime and immigration, may help the BNP (UKIP is also seeking to address similar issues, but arguably with less success). London politics specialists (which I am not) tell me that two Assembly seats could be a realistic target for the BNP.


Justin Greaves said...

Ken was on my Radio 4 yesterday lunchtime. As well as constantly referring to 'Boris' (Tessa Jowell won't be happy!),he said he didn't believe the YouGov polls putting Boris 12/13 points ahead as they are internet based and a third of Londoners don't have net access. Of course, YouGov do have a good track record, but it is also true that ICM are showing much smaller leads for Boris. That said, even ICM show a big lead for Boris if you only consider those certain to vote which may be significant in today's world of low turnouts.

Wyn Grant said...

I have some reservations about YouGov (and Sir Bob Worcester has even more!) However, their track records has been good (they do weight their results and have large sample sizes) and as you point out a key consideration is who is likely to vote. I think that a lot of Londoners are yet to decide who to vote for, if they vote at all.