Installing Boris Johnson as Conservative leader would not boost the party’s chances of winning the next general election, according to a ComRes survey of local Tory activists.
Although the Mayor of London won an ecstatic response at this week’s Tory conference, only one in three constituency chairmen (35 per cent) believes he would improve the party’s prospects of winning a majority at the 2015 election, while 40 per cent think he would worsen them and 25 per cent replied “don’t know.”
The finding emerged as ministers expressed irritation that Mr Johnson had adopted such a high profile at the Birmingham conference. They accused him of trying to upstage David Cameron by doing a round of media interviews after addressing the main conference and a fringe meeting. “He milked it for all its worth,” one minister said. “He professed loyalty to David Cameron but then gave a lot of interviews in which he knew the differences between them would be exposed.”
There are other signs of a “Boris backlash.” Sir Max Hastings, who was Mr Johnson’s editor at the Daily Telegraph, yesterday described him as a “gold medal egomaniac” whose purpose at the conference was “the exultation of himself.” Writing in the Daily Mail, Sir Max said Mr Johnson would be a “wretched prime minister…He is not a man to believe in, to trust or respect save as a superlative exhibitionist. He is bereft of judgment, loyalty and discretion.”
The ComRes survey of 101 local Tory chairmen found that that 72 per cent want an “in or out” referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, while 26 per cent oppose the idea. Some 72 per cent want a cut in the basic rate of income tax, with 21 per cent against.
Grassroots Tories appear to accept the Coalition with the Liberal Democrats, albeit reluctantly. Asked whether it would have been better to form a minority government instead, 39 per cent agreed but 57 per cent disagreed. Asked whether the Coalition was probably the best alternative to a majority Tory government, 69 per cent agreed and 28 per cent disagreed.