Yesterday’s news that London Mayor Boris Johnson is to run for Parliament in 2015 was greeted with widespread delight amongst Conservatives, including Prime Minister David Cameron. His move would seem inexplicable without reading polls that show 20 percent of UKIP voters would consider voting Conservative with Boris as leader.
The YouGov poll was undertaken in February and relate to him as party leader, not merely as a parliamenrary candidate. However they suggest Johnson could bring in extra votes if he were involved in the campaign, especially if UKIP voters believe he is likely to get a major role after the election.
Pundits had suggested that the Prime Minister would be lukewarm about a Boris run for Parliament, but at this stage in the cycle his involvement would not be a challenge. If he loses at the General Election in 9 months, David Cameron would most likely resign as Tory leader, and if he win he’s likely to be allowed to continue despite the scepticism of many Conservatives.
The poll posed the hypothetical question: which way would you vote in 2015 if Boris Johnson was leader of the Conservatives, Nick Clegg led the Liberal Democrats and Ed Miliband led Labour. Twenty percent of UKIP voters said they would vote Conservative, and ten percent of Liberal Democrats said they would follow them.
This was slightly mitigated by eleven percent of Conservatives suggesting they would switch to other parties. Boris is generally considered to be more right-wing than Cameron, but 5 percent of Labour voters would also join the Conservatives under his leadership, suggesting his charisma is also a key factor.
Current polling suggests the Conservatives will be beaten by Labour at the next election, and if Boris can turn that around he will inadvertently give Cameron his only chance of survival. Even if in the process the Prime Minister ends up talking up his biggest rival.
It is not all good news for Boris, though. YouGov also found a whole series of negatives in relation to the Mayor. Fifty-eight percent thought he was not serious enough to be trusted with major national decisions. Forty-four percent thought that his principle motivation would be his own image and not the good of the party.
Either way he looks set to take the seat of Uxbridge, given the retirement of Sir John Randall. The seat is very safe for the Conservatives and is about to select Randall’s replacement, which may account for the timing of Johnson’s announcement of a planned return to the Commons.
Following yesterday’s announcement the odds of Boris Johnson becoming the next Tory leader were slashed from 5/1 to 9/4 while his odds of becoming the next Prime Minister also halved to 5/1.
Whatever happens in May 2015, he is likely to be a major contender, despite being in the awkward situation of having to serve one year as both Mayor of London and as a Member of Parliament.