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February 14, 2011

Poll shows Boris backers can have no complacency.

A YouGov poll out today shows Boris to be two points behind Ken in the mayoral race – a small change from the last poll, done back in October, in which Boris led Ken by a couple of points. However, when respondents were asked who they’d choose given a straight choice between Boris and Ken, Boris held a 45-42 advantage. This suggests that Boris would currently pick up a greater proportion of the others’ second preferences – an interesting factor, given Ken led Boris on second preferences back in 2008.

There are a few other observations to be made. Firstly, Boris is considerably more popular than his party in the capital. The same poll gave Labour a 16-point (50-34) lead amongst Londoners. Ken, by contrast, is less popular than his party. Secondly, one of Boris’ biggest deficits to Ken is amongst 18-24 year olds, where he trails 49-31. Whilst he’s not helped by students’ anger towards the coalition, one of his biggest challenges will be to persuade young people that he’s on their side and understands their needs. Thirdly, it’s interesting to see that Boris is more popular than Ken amongst those in the C2/D/E social classes. It makes an utter mockery of Labour’s anti-Eton, anti-’toff’ rhetoric. The fact is that when a politician has worked hard to keep taxes down, the electorate couldn’t care less where his parents sent him to school. That’s how it should be.

The last point to be made is on the issue of complacency. It could actually be a blessing in disguise that Boris has slipped behind Ken in the polls, if Tories take it as both a wake-up call and evidence that Boris faces the fight of his life over the next 15 months. I’ve been concerned for a while at how complacent a lot of London Tories seem to be about Boris’ re-election prospects. Even today, they seem to have expressed a mixture of shock, bemusement and scepticism at the fact that Boris isn’t miles clear in the polls. “Have Londoners forgotten what life was like under Ken?!” asked one, in astonishment. Yes, they probably have. That’s what happens in politics. The grass is invariably greener – no more so than when the incumbent’s party is embarking on a programme of huge cuts. Indeed, the resentment towards the Tories will be even stronger by this time next year, making Boris’ task even tougher. He needs to work hard on refining a clear, positive, independent message, and Boris backers everywhere need to work even harder to spread that message.

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