Boris Johnson speaks at the Conservative conference in Manchester in 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Boris would boost Tory support by just one point if he became leader

The Conservatives need to change more than just their leader if they are to win a majority. 

What most excites Tories about Boris Johnson's coming return to parliament is the belief that, as leader, he will be able to deliver what David Cameron has not: a Conservative majority. The Mayor defied political gravity to twice win election in Labour-voting London leading him to be dubbed "the Heinkeken Tory": the man who reaches parts of the electorate that others cannot. 

Today's YouGov/Sunday Times poll shows that he is the public's top choice to be the next Conservative leader, backed by 30 per cent, compared to 16 per cent for Theresa May, 7 per cent for George Osborne and 3 per cent for Michael Gove. But despite this, when asked how they would vote if Boris led the Tories (and if Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg still led their parties), the Tories' share increases by just one percentage point from 33 per cent to 34 per cent. 

Although the Mayor would prove successful at attracting Ukip voters, with 20 per cent of those who currently support the party backing the Tories, he would have little effect on Conservative support among current Labour and Lib Dem voters. Worse, he would actually repel current Tory voters, with 92 per cent backing a Johnson-led Conservative Party compared to 97 per cent for a Cameron-led one. 

This is partly because many simply don't think he's up to the job of prime minister, with 36 per cent saying he is and 43 per cent saying he is not. By contrast, a majority of voters (52 per cent) believe Cameron is up to the job, with 37 per cent saying he is not. This is a reminder that the Tories already have a relatively popular leader, who currently outpolls his party by eight points (41 per cent to 33 per cent). That Cameron supporters don't automatically become Conservative supporters is a reflection of the Tories' enduring brand problems. 

While it's always wise to treat hypothetical polls with caution, today's poll does suggest that the election of Boris as leader won't alone be enough to boost the Tories unless they undergo more fundamental change.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.