One should always be wary of polls showing that a political party would perform better under an alternative leader. Voters have a habit of favouring would-be leaders until the moment they’re actually in charge. But in the current climate, it’s unsurprising that a YouGov poll showing that a Boris Johnson-led Conservative Party would reduce Labour’s poll lead to just one point (as opposed to six under “a Cameron-led party”) has caused much excitement among Tories this morning.
As Rafael has argued, such findings have more to do with discontent with Cameron than they do with adoration for Johnson, but it is still striking that the number of voters believing that Boris is “well suited” to the job of prime minister has risen from 24 per cent in May to 36 per cent now. As the election draws closer, Tory MPs will pay even more attention to Boris’s polling numbers. ConservativeHome editor Tim Montgomerie predicts in today’s City AM that “Boris will become Tory leader before the next election if Conservative MPs conclude that they won’t keep their seats with David Cameron still in place.”
The Mayor’s success in winning re-election in a Labour-voting city (even at the 2010 election, Labour outpolled the Tories by 36.6 per cent to 34.5 per cent) has convinced some Tories that he can reach those parts of the electorate that Cameron cannot. As I have noted before, it was Boris who won the London mayoral election, not Ken who lost it. Despite claims that he was a drag on Labour, Livingstone finished just 0.8 per cent behind his party. The reality, perhaps, is that any Labour candidate would have struggled against Boris, who successfully detached himself from the Conservatives and retained his unrivalled personal appeal. Whether he could replicate this feat on a national level (and I, like Rafael, doubt he could) is now the key question for the Tories.