The Thick of It

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Boris Johnson ignores the suburbs & Ken gets a kicking

Further news of Boris Johnson ignoring his fans in the London suburbs fails to have dented his popularity. At a time when the Tory Party is consolidating a lead over Labour in the opinion polls despite doing lots of unpopular things, mayoral candidate Johnson is following suit. The latest mayoral opinion poll puts him ahead of Labour rival Ken Livingstone on both first and. crucially, second preferences.

An example of Johnson's "relaxed" attitude to his suburban vote was demonstrated by his ignoring of a 3,000 name petition against plans for a high rise development on top of Twickenham station. He approved the development, despite Richmond Council, run by the Tories stating that they believe in "low density" developments. Johnson himself has opposed/said what he thought people wanted to hear Richmond Council's planned development of the nearby riverside side as being "inappropriate" for the area. He can't have it both ways.

Or can he? Just like the Tories nationally, saying and doing unpopular things seems to only increase their poll position. YouGov's poll today put Johnson ahead, 54% to Livingstone's 46% in the race for mayor. Today's Guardian ICM poll also put the Tories ahead by three points over Labour, with 39%. Perhaps this suggests that while unpopular, the Tories are trusted more than Livingstone and Labour more generally at the moment.

Polls and election results often come down to gut feel and who looks more like a leader than what a candidate is actually proposing to do. Both Johnson and Livingstone have as many fans as enemies which means there will be more changes in support right up to election day, with both bucking national (Tories more popular than Labour) and local (Labour more popular than Tories in London) trends.

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