Boris Johnson has been voted England's most patriotic politician in a sign that the Mayor of London's appeal stretches way beyond the capital.
An ICM survey for the British Future think tank found that Mr Johnson is seen as “the politician who speaks convincingly for England” by more people than David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg or Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party. The Mayor of London is the only politician who beats “none of the above.”
Critics of Mr Johnson argue that, while he has done well to win two elections for London Mayor in a Labour-leaning city, the “Boris brand” would not play well “north of Watford” if he became Conservative Party leader.
The poll knocks that claim on the head. In London, Mr Cameron is seen as the politician who speaks convincingly for England by more people (44 per cent) than Mr Johnson (39 per cent). But Mr Johnson is seen as the best voice for England in the North West, which has many key marginal seats, and the North East, a Labour heartland.
Overall, Mr Johnson is named as the politician who speaks for England by 39 per cent of people; while 38 per cent opted for “nobody”; 32 per cent Mr Cameron; 24 per cent Mr Farage; 19 per cent Mr Miliband; 15 per cent Mr Clegg; six per cent Nick Griffin, chairman of the British National Party; five per cent Tommy Robinson, who recently left the English Defence League and four per cent Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP.
The survey was conducted ahead of a “England, my England - A Festival of Englishness”, in London on Saturday, about what the rise of Englishness means for culture, society and politics. It is being staged by British Future and the Institute for Public Policy Research.
Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said: “People all over England like Boris because he's authentic and he's got a positive story to tell about our country. He's clearly proud of England and our history, but he doesn't want to wallow in what we've lost. Instead he uses that to build more confidence in the future too.”
He said the poll findings should act as a wake-up call to Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband. “They've both acknowledged that the 'English question' needs to be addressed but a year or two later nobody's heard them say anything about it,” he added.