Friday, 15 February 2008

Iain Dale's Boris article

Iain Dale has a piece in today's Telegraph about Boris Johnson's chances of winning the Mayoral election on 1st May. Below I have added my own comments to key sections of the article. I implore you to read the whole thing however over at the Telegraph website so as to get the full story too...

Iain's words are in black, my fisking is in red:

Instead of ignoring his opponent, as most incumbents would, Ken talks about Boris all the time. He launched personal attacks on him from the off. As an electoral strategy, it was bizarre. He dubbed Boris a racist, yet the charge failed to stick. Why? Because no one who has ever met Boris, seen him on TV or read his books would ever believe him to be one.

Iain is absolutely right on this point in my opinion – why is Ken so obsessed with the Boris campaign? The “Look at him” strategy designed to make everyone look at the opponent and see how terrible they are usually only results in everyone looking at the opponent and ignoring the incumbent. This has been Livingstone’s biggest mistake so far – and also the attempts to paint Boris as a racist are simply unpalatable and patently untrue.

Ken failed to understand that, in Boris, he had met the Right-wing equivalent of himself - a politician seen by the electorate as independent of party politics and with a Teflon-type ability to deflect attacks.

Boris independent of party politics? More on this further down...

But there the similarity ends. Boris unites people, whereas Ken revels in division. His political strategy is based on class, and setting people against each other.

Greatly simplified – while many of us do love Boris, there is a significant number out there who do not like him. Worse of all, the biggest uniting factor behind Boris is a belief that while he is a nice chap, he is not necessarily up to the job of running the world’s premier city.

Since then Boris has started to develop some clear thinking in several policy areas, not least crime. But it still doesn't amount to a vision.

This is the catch 22. If Boris focuses on policy he loses what is his greatest selling point – his personality. If he focuses on his personality is will not be seen as a credible candidate. In a straight contest between Ken and Boris on policy and vision for London, Ken will win hands down. What is Boris’s policy on crime exactly? What will he do about transport except get rid of bendy buses? What impact will he have on business in London where Ken is seen as having such success? What will he do for poverty? We know where Ken stands on these issues, whether we like where he stands or not. While Boris can “out-personality” Ken (which is no mean feat), he has yet to show that he can “out-vision” him. I doubt he can and even trying may well have a detrimental effect on his campaign.

Ken did this in 2000 - less so in 2004 - but his ability to appeal to non-Labour voters has now been dented, not least by the scandals that emerge from City Hall.

There is absolutely no evidence what so ever for this. In fact, the immediate poll after the Channel 4 programme went out showed Ken had stretched his lead.

Mobilising the Tory vote is incredibly important. In 2004, turnout was 70 per cent in parts of Labour-dominated Lewisham, while in parts of Kensington & Chelsea it was little more than 20 per cent. Steve Norris lost by only 100,000 votes. That's why Boris's "get out the vote" operation will be crucial to his success. Boris's success is also crucial to David Cameron. If Boris wins, Cameron will be seen to have passed his second big electoral test - and, more important, Gordon Brown will have failed his first.

This works both ways. If Boris cannot even win in the Tory’s back yard, what hope have they got in the rest of the country? The Tories should be cleaning up in the South East by now and Cameron knows if he associates himself with a loser here, then it will discredit the Tories.

I also disagree that Boris is seen in similar terms as Ken, i.e. not partisan. Ken left the Labour party; he is often seen as a thorn in New Labour’s side. Boris is seen as Cameron’s old pal from school intrinsically linked with Cameron’s attempts to modernise the party.

I think the damage would be greater to the Tories if they lose in London than to Labour if Ken was to lose. The SE is just a corner of Britain, albeit an important one. But we all know the Tories have this area sewn up – what does the North care about a Mayoral election?

If Ken loses it will be seen more as his loss than Labour's and Labour shouldn't be winning in London anyway given the larger Tory numbers in the SE right now. On the other hand - if Ken does win it will be seen as a Ken win rather than a Gordon Brown and Labour win.

This election will not be won on first preferences. A key part of the Johnson campaign strategy will be to love-bomb Lib Dem voters into giving Boris their second preferences. It will be tough, as London Lib Dems are a little more Left-leaning than their country counterparts. But if anyone knows the way to attract second preferences, it's Boris's newly imported Australian campaign manager, Lynton Crosby. His appointment signalled the seriousness of the campaign.

Spot on – and the key reason why Boris will lose. Paddick supporters are far more likely to go with Ken that Boris.

His campaign managers have resisted the temptation to de-Boris Boris. Any attempt to turn him into a robot politician will end in him losing.

The catch 22 point. Either he is Boris with no policies or he is the robot with policies that cannot compete with Ken. Unless he can find a third way he has a fundamental problem that he cannot overcome. I don’t see how he can overcome this. Iain is calling for Boris to focus more on policy and vision, but he himself recognises that the biggest mistake would be to move away from Boris's biggest strength - his personality.


Matt Wardman said...

Is it instructive to compare Boris to Reagan?

Less ideological than RR, but can he get away with "There you go again..".

Garbo said...

In what way? Personality wise I guess you could. Not so sure policy wise...

Interesting thought - will have to spend more time pondering, I'm afraid...

what do you think?