Boris Johnson as London mayor in 2011.

The celebrated “Boris bonus” has diminished in value — if it exists at all.

London learned that Boris Johnson was to become its mayor at five minutes to midnight on Friday 2 May 2008. The Conservative candidate, best known at the time as a plum-voiced wit, a game show panellist, a scruff, a fibber and an adulterer, rather than a dud former foreign secretary and a no-deal-touting Brexiteer, had not been expected to defeat his predecessor Ken Livingstone. There had been nervy assurances, now echoed in Johnson’s Tory leadership campaign, that the dizzy blond would knuckle down and be more of a chairman than a managing director. But the campaign had seen the irresistible emergence of what YouGov’s Peter Kellner dubbed the “Boris bonus” — a level of voter support for the Tory hopeful that comfortably exceeded that for his party.

That bonus, repeated when Johnson retained City Hall in 2012, is what many Conservative MPs are banking on. Its attractions are obvious. Johnson won twice in a city which, in all other respects, was leaning further towards Labour. Only at the 2010 general election did the Tories swing the pendulum the other way and, significantly, by a lesser degree to elsewhere.

How did Johnson do it? And what do his electoral successes and his mayoralty reveal about how he might woo and run the country?

The answer to the first question is partly that Johnson compellingly embodied the disruptive concept of the anti-politician — such was the populist entity known as “Boris”, the only politician who, as someone shrewdly observed, was recognisable to all from behind. It was partly that he capitalised on discontent in outer London, stoking suburban revolt as part of his “doughnut strategy”. It was partly that he won over some white working-class …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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