Two-thirds believe Boris Johnson does not have the gravitas to lead the nationby Peter Kellner / March 27, 2014 / Leave a comment
“He has developed an image that is the envy of most politicians” ©Andrew Parsons via Flicker
We like him. He makes us laugh. He is so much more refreshing than other politicians. But do we want Boris Johnson running the country? Is he up to the job of taking the big, tough decisions? Is he serious enough to deal with a crisis?
Even though he is not even an MP, he is widely talked of as the next Conservative leader. The assumption—by friends and enemies alike—is that he is a huge electoral asset to his party. He would revive its fortunes if it loses power next year. After all, hasn’t he twice won London, a Labour city, by appealing to Labour and Lib Dem voters?
Fresh YouGov research for Prospect throws doubt on this. True, he would win back some Tory voters who have defected to Ukip, but he repels some Conservatives who doubt that he has what it takes to be Prime Minister.
Eighteen months ago, YouGov provoked debate with a poll showing that the Tories would be doing far better with Johnson as their leader. When we asked people how they would vote in a general election with the current party leaders, Labour (40 per cent) enjoyed a six point lead over the Conservatives. But when the same people were asked how they would vote if Johnson were Tory leader, Labour’s lead fell to just a single point, 38 versus 37 per cent.
That poll, however, was conducted during the Olympics, for which Johnson claimed much of the credit and during which he secured acres of publicity. We recently repeated the exercise. This time the “Boris bounce” virtually disappears: the Conservatives (32 per cent) lag five points behind Labour (37 per cent) under Cameron—and four points (33-37 per cent) under Johnson. Instead of an athletic bounce, we have a statistically trivial twitch.
The big reason for this is that since the Olympics, Cameron’s appeal has gone up while Johnson’s has slipped down. We repeated a question we asked then about a range of leading politicians—are they well suited or not to being Prime Minister? Back in August 2012, views on Cameron were evenly divided: 46-46 per cent. Today he has a net score of plus 7, with 51 per cent saying he is well suited, while 44…