Leading article: Cameron's dilemma is Johnson's opportunity

 

Share

These are difficult days for David Cameron with the economy still becalmed, the Coalition in trouble, Ed Miliband at the head of a resurgent Opposition and Tory nerves starting to fray badly.

A poll conducted by this newspaper of 1,400 Tory party members makes grim reading for the Prime Minister ahead of his summer holiday, and even worse reading for the Chancellor, George Osborne.

While none of the poll's results will cheer Mr Cameron – the majority of those polled believe that Labour will win the next election for a start – the other finding that may most trouble him is the surge in the ratings of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who by an eight-point lead is now the most popular man to lead the party once Mr Cameron steps down.

If the rest of the London Olympics proceeds as well as the opening ceremony, Mr Johnson's ratings in the Tory Party are likely to receive a further fillip, strengthening his efforts to manoeuvre himself into position as second-in-line to Mr Cameron's throne.

Interestingly, the next favourite is the party's former leader, William Hague, benefiting from what is seen as a good innings at the Foreign Office. But what is most striking in the poll is the astonishing unpopularity of Mr Cameron's closest political ally and presumed heir, Mr Osborne, who is revealed as the favourite to lead the party of a mere 2 per cent of those polled.

Apart from this implied rebuke to Mr Cameron's acuity, another problem for the Tory leader with this poll is that the results don't suggest an obvious way forward. The conventional political wisdom is that, come the autumn, Mr Cameron will succumb to pressure from the Tory backbench MPs and Tory donors to reshuffle the Government to the right. But if this poll is a barometer of grassroots feeling among the party faithful, tilting to the right, or the left, will not make much difference in terms of rekindling their enthusiasm.

Liam Fox, a notable standard bearer for the right in the party, barely scores any better than Mr Osborne. As for Mr Hague, he may have past form as a right-winger, but it's not clear that he owes his present standing to memories of his EU-bashing days. As Foreign Secretary, he hasn't sounded like a Tory "Little Englander" and has striven to sound a bipartisan note.

Mr Johnson's political constituency, meanwhile, is harder still to locate, complicating any attempt by Mr Cameron to check his steady advance. In his two mayoral campaigns in London Mr Johnson pulled in votes from various quarters, promoting himself as a personality who was far too big, lively and spontaneous to be contained by a mere party. Tacking hard to the right on some issues, like banks, or Brussels, he lurches leftwards on others, such as immigration and gay rights, as well he might, being the mayor of multicultural, gay-friendly metropolis. But this latter point is interesting because while right-wing Tory MPs often maintain that Tories on the doorstep are repelled by the promotion of socially liberal issues, it sounds from this poll as if it all depends on who is doing the talking

While Mr Cameron spends the summer weighing up what to do with the Mayor, the other big question is what to do with the Chancellor. If he shuffles Mr Osborne aside in the autumn, the risk is that he will look as if he is a leader who panics when the going gets tough. But there is a fine line between appearing resolute and looking plain obdurate, and it may prove be hard to keep Mr Osborne as Chancellor for much longer unless, of course, his poll ratings stage a miraculous recovery. That looks unlikely unless the economy also recovers beforehand, later in the year.

Leader One

These are difficult days for David Cameron with the economy still becalmed, the Coalition in trouble, Ed Miliband at the head of a resurgent Opposition and Tory nerves starting to fray badly. A poll conducted by this newspaper of 1,400 Tory party members makes grim reading for the Prime Minister ahead of his summer holiday, and even worse reading for the Chancellor, George Osborne.

While none of the poll's results will cheer Mr Cameron – the majority of those polled believe that Labour will win the next election for a start – the other finding that may most trouble him is the surge in the ratings of the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who by an eight-point lead is now the most popular man to lead the party once Mr Cameron steps down. If the rest of the London Olympics proceeds as well as the opening ceremony, Mr Johnson's position within the Tory Party is likely to receive a further fillip, strengthening his unofficial but obvious efforts to manoeuvre himself into position as second-in-line to Mr Cameron's throne.

Interestingly, the next favourite is the party's former leader, William Hague, benefiting from what is seen as a good innings at the Foreign Office. But what is most striking in the poll is the astonishing unpopularity of Mr Cameron's closest political ally and presumed heir, Mr Osborne, who is revealed as the favourite to lead the party of a mere 2 per cent of those polled.

Apart from this implied rebuke to Mr Cameron's acuity, another problem for the Tory leader with this poll is that the results don't suggest an obvious way forward. The conventional political wisdom is that, come the autumn, Mr Cameron will succumb to pressure from the Tory backbench MPs and Tory donors to reshuffle the Government to the right. But if this poll is a barometer of grassroots feeling among the party faithful, tilting to the right, or even to the left, will not make much difference in terms of rekindling their enthusiasm. Liam Fox, a notable standard bearer for the right in the party, barely scores any better than Mr Osborne. As for Mr Hague, he may have past form as a right-winger, but it's not clear that he owes his present standing to memories of his EU-bashing days. As Foreign Secretary, he hasn't sounded like a Tory "Little Englander" and has striven to sound a bipartisan note.

Mr John's political constituency, meanwhile, is harder still to locate, complicating any attempt by Mr Cameron to check his steady advance. In his two mayoral campaigns in London Mr Johnson pulled in votes from various quarters, promoting himself as a personality who was far too big, lively and spontaneous to be contained by a mere party. Tacking hard to the right on some issues, like banks, or Brussels, he lurches leftwards on others, such as immigration and gay rights, as well he might, being the mayor of multicultural, gay-friendly metropolis. But this latter point is interesting because while right-wing Tory MPs often maintain that Tories on the doorstep are repelled by the promotion of socially liberal issues, it sounds from this poll as if it all depends on who is doing the talking

While Mr Cameron spends the summer weighing up what to do with the Mayor, the other big question is what to do with the Chancellor. If he shuffles Mr Osborne aside in the autumn, the risk is that he will look as if he is a leader who panics when the going gets tough. But there is a fine line between appearing resolute and looking plain obdurate, and it will be hard to keep Mr Osborne as Chancellor for much longer unless, of course, his poll ratings stage a miraculous recovery, which looks unlikely unless the economy also recovers beforehand, later in the year.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project