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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'