Boris Johnson’s victory in London has produced the predictable flurry of media speculation about Boris as a future leader. Both the polls in the weekend papers – YouGov in the Sunday Times and Survation in the Mail on Sunday had a series of questions comparing Boris and David Cameron and both suggested Boris would do very marginally worse than Cameron.

Polls on alternative leaders are a tricky thing to do, and of dubious worth. Journalists love them as they produce nice easy headlines, but they are often done very badly indeed and even if done well, still have problems.

To start with the methodological problems, firstly you need to ask voting intention in exactly the same way – if you normally filter by likelihood to vote and reallocate don’t knows, you need to do that in your hypothetical question too, otherwise any difference could be down to that (including asking likelihood to vote afresh, you cannot assume it would stay the same). Neither can you say “Imagine Boris Johnson was leader” as it gives undue prominence to one party leader, you have to mention all three. However, you can’t then compare it to a normal voting intention question, as they don’t mention the party leaders – what if any change in the answer is actually down to mentioning Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg? Instead you need to do a control question.

In YouGov’s poll they asked two questions. The first asked how people would vote if the party leaders at the next election stayed the same, the second if the party leaders were Johnson, Miliband and Clegg. You might expect the first one to be the same as the current headline figures – it is not. Current voting intention is CON 31%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%. If you ask people how they will vote at the general election if the leaders are still Cameron, Miliband and Clegg the answer is CON 32%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10% – mentioning Cameron, Miliband and Clegg in the question reduces the Labour lead by 4 points.

This is interesting in its own right – perhaps more interesting than the Boris comparison! Is it people consciously thinking to themselves that while they’ll say Labour now as a protest, but probably won’t actually vote that way come the election? Or a positive effect from mentioning Cameron, or a negative effect from mentioning Ed Miliband? It’s impossible to tell.

YouGov then asked the same question with Boris Johnson as Tory leader, this changed the figures to CON 32%, LAB 41%, LDEM 11%. So under Boris the Conservatives would perform the same, but Labour and the Lib Dems would do slighter better (it looks as though the Conservatives would lose support to the Lib Dems and Labour, but presumably it is cancelled out by gaining support from Others and Don’t knows). Even this, however, shouldn’t be given too much weight, as people don’t tend to be very good at answering hypothetical questions about how they would vote if X happened. People don’t know what policies Boris Johnson would promote, how he’d handle the job, so the answers are based on pretty flimsy information (not, one should add, that people’s eventual voting intentions are necessarily based on a much greater understanding.)

YouGov also asked whether people were suited to be Prime Minister, and were in touch with the public. On being “Prime Ministerial” David Cameron did substantially better than Boris Johnson and, indeed, the other people asked about. 44% of people thought David Cameron was well suited to being Prime Minister, compared to 24% for Boris Johnson (Ed Miliband was on 25%, George Osborne just 10%). Of course, actually being Prime Minister is a big help in people seeing you as Prime Ministerial! On understanding the problems faced by ordinary people only 21% thought Cameron understood well, behind Boris Johnson on 27% (and Ed Miliband on 32%).

Survation in the Mail on Sunday also asked some Boris Johnson questions. They asked if people were more or less likely to vote Conservative with Boris in charge. More or less likely to vote X if Y questions come with another whole bucketload of problems which I won’t go into today, but they found a similar situation anyway – 22% said more likely, 24% less likely.

Survation also asked a series of questions on whether people rated Boris or David Cameron on various attributes. Boris was seen as more likeable, charming and more in touch. cameron was seen as having better leadership qualities, being more true to Conservative values, better at taking tough decisions, more trusted on the recession and likely to be a better Prime Minister. They scored equally on intelligence.

Personally, I suspect the practical requirement to be a member of the House of Commons at the time a leadership vacancy arises and the timing difficulties around that are a huge block to Boris Johnson ever being in the running for the party leadership. Nevertheless, what data we have does not suggest he is any sort of panacea for the Tories.

470 Responses to “Comparing Boris and Dave”

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  1. Gosh! The Ozzie insults are much better than “like being attacked by a dead sheep”.

    Who’s have thought it – they’re usually dead cultured.

  2. @ Cheesewolf

    ‘To go back to the LD survival points above, well over half of LD MPs will be fighting seats where the Tories are the primary opposition. There are only seven or eight where Labour have that role, the others are a ragbag of three and four way marginals and the very odd LibDem safe seats (Orkney/Shetland and Caithness at last count). The Tories are the biggest threat to the LDs continued existence as a meaningful party. Period.’

    Great to have an interesting post from a new poster. In the Tory/LD marginals to which you refer I think the LDs have a good chance of holding on. If Labour have no chance and you’re definitely going to have a ‘coalition’ MP why not stick with the hard-working centrist LD incumbent over some right-wing Tory parvenu?

    Your post also indicates why strong LD performances last week in LD/Tory battlegrounds like Cheltenham, Eastleigh and Portsmouth aren’t of merely peripheral interest. It’s places like these that really matter in terms of the survival of the LD parliamentary party.

  3. @Max etc…

    I was referring to the infamous “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!” article written by Lord Rothermere in the Daily Mail. He owned it at the time, and was famously friendly to Messrs Hitler and Mussolini.

    Really, pay attention!


    I believe Crayshaw left a memorial with the words: May God forgive me on his monument in Dowlais.

    The Guests married the Churchills, and formed GKN. They bought the Canford Estate for 885k in 1835, Now a public school. My lot were irish migrant employees of both of them.
    On the other matter! I think the Virgin devotion was merely transferred on to the older rite!

    My other claim to welsh fame, is that the Lanes are from the beautiful town of Port Talbot/Aberavon, and my Dad was in the same school as Richard Jenkins (Burton), and my Grandad helped with Ramsay Macdonald’s campaign there in 1923/4/29

  5. Nadine doris is a nutter

    DC will be leader at the 2015 election.

    As a party we do have MP’s that like having a good old moan, but we have changed a little since pre 97, Thank god.

    Every leader of every party gets this when the polls are not in favour, unless impending disaster looms most of it is just talk.

  6. ‘Nadine doris is a nutter’

    hear, hear.

    Anyone who suggests Tories move from having a leader who appeals to the centre to going back to Tory ‘slash and burn’ policies , (that’s why they didnt get in power in 2004/2008 as normal voters think the policies are mad) is just UKIP stupid…

    Sooner she joins those nutters the better for the tory party.

  7. Another thought:

    It seems to me that the prospect of a premature end to the Coalition has actually receded following last week’s elections. This time last year it was possible to argue that the Tories could win a snap election. No-one thinks that now. All the bleating from the Tory right over the weekend is only so much posturing. Both parties are now locked in to the coalition lasting right up to May 2015.

    I hope Clegg makes it clear to the Tories: if they want their boundary changes, they are going to have to put up with Lords reform and gay marriage…

  8. BB.

    Who’s doris?

  9. The thing is with all these rebels, if it comes to a real fight I have a feeling that the majority of the public will think that things like Lords reforms and Equal Marriage rights are not really worth letting the economy slide over. Imagine an election over this? Seriously. It’d be an absolute mess; and the Tories would get torn apart.

    Its all children playing. I’ve said this in a post before, the Tories dumped Thatcher but they’ve revised history since then and far far far too many of them seem to think all you need is someone to say something strongly enough and it’ll get done.

    I was watching a great scene in Game of Thrones today where the King shouts to his guards to execute the people surrounding them after they threw dung at him. They are attacked and nearly overrun by ordinary people. Why? Because the King didn’t have the power in that situation, he was surrounded. Powerless in that situation.

    These Tories can not do anything without a Lib Dem yes; sitting moaning about it is all well and good but it is a simple fact. They will have to risk an election; with a new leader following infighting.

    Me? Am starting to wonder how many of these rebels want to stop the boundary review…

  10. No poll tonight?

  11. @ Fraser

    Thanks. You’ve made my point rather more eloquently than I did.

  12. Perhaps I should add that the Labor leader before Rudd had this to say:

    “He did not criticise Ms Gillard for the coup to depose Mr Rudd, saying she had clean hands and there was no evidence she had plotted to bring him down.

    She had to act because the party’s “machine men”, who had fallen out with Mr Rudd, would otherwise have installed someone else as leader, such as Mr Swan.”

  13. SNP and Labour have gone into bed with each other in Edinburgh!!! Sorry but anyone but Labour please….

  14. @Bluebob

    Mind explaining why she is a nutter rather than just baseless conjecture?

    She’s a working class gal that’s worked her way up to where she is, that is the spirit of Conservativism, Cameron is a Lib Dem in Tory clothing. 46 out of 307, isn’t too much. It’s just under 15% I don’t think it would be too hard to find 15% of Tories furious at Camerons betrayals. And even if we can’t do it yet, a few more elections like we had Thursday and the number will undoubtedly grow.

    In Greece, there is a party called Independent Greeks who split from the main Conservative party because they couldn’t stand it anymore, I doubt we’d have a split, but a rebellion is surely on the cards.

    Gordon had to face the threat of rebellion repeatedly, he survived them, but remember, the tories are a lot less loyal.

    And hey if your going to have you seat wiped out in an election, or lose it due to boundary changes, you may as well go out with a bang.

  15. RAF,I rather thought that Simon Hughes spoke a good
    deal of sense today.

  16. David

    Nice to have a LD to debate with – I am a ex who would like to return one day – not with a party that sucks up tot he Tories though

    I do think you will hold on to seats in the South due o incumbency and the tactical votes of the left. You are right I would prefer a Lib Dem to a Tory any day (apart from Laws who is a crook and more right wing than a Tory anyway). However, you will lose all your MPs in the metropolitan areas and most in Scotland as well.

    This will change the dynamic of the party and make you, similarly to the Tories, a party of the south and the shires.

    It must worry you that the Coalition of two parties in the Government are now supported mainly by the South of England and the shires with no support in Scotland, Wales or the metropolitan areas.

    You are right that in that the Coalition is probably more secure but the only party who benefits from that are the Tories. From now on every day you stay you are losing more votes.

    I am anticipating more lost votes after the Clegg/Cameron relaunch. Clegg’s article this morning in the Guardian was bordering on the delusional. Get rid and start acting like a party who had a quarter of the votes (including mine) at the last election

  17. “move from having a leader who appeals to the centre to ”

    It’s no good appealing to the centre, if you don’t even appeal to your own party.

  18. “if they want their boundary changes, they are going to have to put up with Lords reform and gay marriage…”

    Well if your an MP about to lose their seat under boundary changes, that’s not a very tough decision is it? The boundary changes are meant to be a blow to Labour, why would a tory vote for a deal that dealt a blow to Labour but to blows to the Tory party (other than whipping of course)

  19. Great news that SNP/Labour are finally being practical. Least their local councillors are.
    If only the MSPs had done the same 2007-2011!

  20. @Max

    “Gordon had to face the threat of rebellion repeatedly, he survived them, but remember, the tories are a lot less loyal.”

    I am not sure I would be supporting a party where the backbenchers were often disloyal to their leader. Lack of unity, is one reason people stop supporting a party, because it affects peoples perception as to whether they are competent to run the country.

    This is the reason, I think the chief whip should tell Ms Dorries, to either shut up or face having the whip withdrawn, with her being recommended for deselection by a her local party. The level of disloyalty she has shown to Cameron and the party, cannot be seen to be tolerated.

  21. Off topic,but not politically contentious I hope, is any one
    else totally fed up of bank holidays.Now that most people
    have reasonable holiday entitlements, why does the
    country have to keep shutting down and losing vast
    amounts of money by doing so.We now have a two day
    bank holiday looming in about three weeks time .It just
    seems a holiday too much.And the weather is always awful!

  22. Good Night all.

    But are we allowed to use the word Nutter?

    We should not intrude on private grief however.

    IMO/CREDO- Nadine is a brave lady.

  23. @R Huckle

    Actually, that used to be the case, but more and more, the public are being turned off by politicians who follow the party line and just go along with the party. Whips are seen by many of the public as the problem in politics, stopping people voting with their conscience and along the lines of the leader, is an erosion of democracy.

    This thread is about Boris, who is equally a renegade, he often defies the party and the public like him for this, it’s one of his many positive qualities. Cameron didn’t kick Boris out when he refered to Camerons benefit cap as KOSOVO STYLE CLEANSING. Which is a far more serious accusation, than arrogant posh boy.

  24. @Max

    I agree with you about Nadine Dorries; she represents an authentic strand of Toryism. I don’t agree with it, self evidently, but I recognise its authenticity and Tories of a different ilk sneer at it at their peril.

    She’s probably a victim of nothing more than old fashioned snobbery, one of the great vices of the Tory Party. It’s always amused me that the right often accuse the left of “class envy”, but due to my background, I have seen the Tory Party at close hand, at both work and play, and I always found it riddled, from head to toe, with an almost hilarious level of class consciousness and envy. It wouldn’t surprise me if Nadine’s current bout of bile is as a result of being on the receiving end of some pretty unpleasant snobbery and condescension from within her own party.

  25. Yes Crossbat, I agree we do have a problem with this sort of class snobbery, but it can be overcome.

    Films like Iron Lady and The Road To Finchley, show the sexist and classist (is that a word?) snobbery that Thatcher had to overcome. Unfortunately, it is still alive in the party today, and that is a great shame.

    I wasn’t around in Thatchers time, but I see posters here talking about how they never believed the Tories would pick her as her leader. I dunno, maybe history could repeat itself.

    I’d love to see the Conservatives led by a working class girl from Liverpool. You can’t fail to see the irony of the Conservatives with a working class girl from a liverpool and Labour with an upper class man from oxford. I can’t see it happening, but then neither did those about Thatcher.

  26. Agree Ann waste of time this bank holiday although did get lawns done.
    Easter, then spring bank then summer is enough.
    Maybe one end of October to keep numbers the same.
    Statgeek – no poll tonight as Bank Holiday.

    Don’t see Dorris as Mayer.

    Max – ‘Cameron is a Lib Dem in Tory clothing’.

    Really, he may not be the brand of Conservative you prefer but an LD in disguise?

    Sure DC is liberal on social issues but Economically dry. Maudling, Whitelaw, Prior, Pym, Patten and many more were well to the left of DC.

    The centre of gravity of the modern Conservative party has shifted right which is Thatchers legacy, maybe it is this and not being insufficienntly right wing that makes 40% in a GE very difficult.

  27. Chris Lane,I have not seen the monument in Dowlais,
    but shall make a point of doing so and let you know what
    it says.Some how cannot imagine that tough old nut saying that but who knows.However I have seen the
    Bailey towers at Nantyglo which were built(rather like a
    marcher lord)to defend him from his enbittered work
    force.These people were welsh but hated the Irish migrants who were prepared to work for starvation wages.
    Crawshay Bailey was of course only too happy to employ

  28. Omnishambles alert?

    “Ministers plan to discuss a possible appeal or veto amid confusion over whether they might have missed the deadline for both, following a ruling by the information tribunal last month that the [NHS] risk register must be made public.”

    Government says weekends and bank holidays don’t count when working out the deadline.

  29. @ Bazsc

    ‘From now on every day you stay you are losing more votes.’

    That’s not what the polls or the local elections tell us. We hit rock bottom in 2011. The polls are no worse now than they were a year ago. The local elections last week were no worse than 2011 either (and in places like Hull and Newcastle they appear to have been a bit better)…

    I know that there is chunk of the 2010 LD vote that regards the Coalition as a grand betrayal and longs for it to end. But the party as a whole (Special Conference in May 2010) took the decision to go into coalition. I thought that was the right decision and I just can’t see the party going back on the decision it made then.

    That means that you (and many others who agree with you) won’t vote for us in 2015. Frankly, I think the party is resigned to that. The thinking was that it was worth sacrificing a chunk of our voters to enter government for the first time in 65 years.

    As one of my colleagues said to me in June 2010, the coalition was electoral suicide but the right thing to do.

    But ‘suicide’ overstates it considerably. I expect that we will lose votes and seats in 2015 but I think we will retain enough of our vote (maybe two thirds?) to return a reasonable number of MPs and remain as the third party in the Commons. That will be enough to allow us to survive and fight another day…

  30. Ann in Wales

    I suspect that there are not many votes in such a proposal and you might have a fight with the unions on your hands!

    I think the UK has one of the fewest bank holidays of any country in Europe. It’s a bank holiday in France tomorrow – VE Day. Now why doesn’t the UK celebrate that?

  31. Allan: I’m glad! If Lab and SNP could just work together and stop bickering it would be the best thing that could happen to Scotland.

    On DC: It seems to me like he’s safe whilst it’s still Dorries making these claims?

    David: I don’t think there;ll be a wipeout, but I think 2/3rds is maybe a little optimistic. I’d say between 1/3rd – 1/2, due to tactical voting.

  32. I suppose the Conservatives might be more tolerant of Cameron, if he actually did appeal to the centre, and delivered them polling and electoral success. Unfortunately, for both them and him, he’s increasingly doing neither, having gone down the electoral dead end, along with his coalition partners, of fiscal ultraconservatism with cosmopolitan social policies. Oh and the ever growing mountain of incompetence and sleaze. His backbenchers might be forgiven for wondering what they’re making all these compromises for. (Lol at “LD in tory clothing,” however).

    And I know I tend to bang on about the boundary changes as a pressure point for the coalition, particularly on the Lib Dem side, but it increasingly seams to be removing any incentive for loyalty amongst many of his own backbenchers who stand to lose their seats in any case. ND being a case in point.

  33. Ann in Wales:

    As a retired person I agree: bank holidays should have been abandoned once I stopworking as they are just confusing – I’ve only just realied that it Tuesday tomorrow for example [not that that matters too much I suppose.]

    You’re also right that they sod up the weather – although I thought it always rained in Wales anyway?

  34. scotswaehae
    Allan: I’m glad! If Lab and SNP could just work together and stop bickering it would be the best thing that could happen to Scotland.

    This is true but having them both in bed together is like having Beyonce and Dale Winton share the same bed, I can’t see the romance lasting!! ;)



    `This is true but having them both in bed together is like having Beyonce and Dale Winton `

    Now who`s Beyonce, and who`s Dale Winton?

  37. David wrote
    ” I expect that we will lose votes and seats in 2015 but I think we will retain enough of our vote (maybe two thirds?) to return a reasonable number of MPs and remain as the third party in the Commons. That will be enough to allow us to survive and fight another day…”

    Correct David, but to paraphrase Nigel Farage ‘what will we be for’?

    I think that the challenge for the golden tendency is to establish a recognition with the electorate that we actually stand for anything that means something tangible to them.

  38. @ Anne in wales.

    A fascinating Radio 4 prog is More or Less, which tests topical “statistical” claims put forward by politicians, media etc, usually concluding they are more or less fraudulent. It estimated the cost of the two royalty-linked Bank Hols at £4-5 Bill.
    Why don’t you write to your local paper suggesting that Buck Palace — worth £5 Bill — should be sold to cover the bill, then change your name & leave the country.

  39. Robert,I was not really suggesting that we did not have
    bank holidays,it is just that they seem to proliferate like
    Paul,yes, I keep losing track of which day of the week it is.
    Everyday seems like Sunday.Plus that it plays havoc with
    the bin collections! It does not always rain in Wales,that is
    a bit of a myth unless you live in the Elan valley,but it
    certainly rained today.

  40. Robbie,well I could,but actually I think I will just go to bed
    and read a book instead.Goodnight everyone.

  41. Allan:

    You never know, they say opposites attract… ;)

  42. @ Howard

    ‘I think that the challenge for the golden tendency is to establish a recognition with the electorate that we actually stand for anything that means something tangible to them.’

    I agree. We have good policies on a whole range of issues but we’ve been pretty hopeless at communicating our underlying values and philosophy.

  43. Dale and Beyonce: is there a video?

  44. I can understand Dale doing it. She’s a fine lassie.

    Still not sure which is which though. :P

  45. SNP would be Dale, equal shades of Orange see :p

  46. SMukesh
    `This is true but having them both in bed together is like having Beyonce and Dale Winton `

    Now who`s Beyonce, and who`s Dale Winton?

    Well I will leave that for others to decide lol. ;)

  47. Just a small update to the image posted yesterday (Scottish councils).

    h ttp://

    Have coloured Midlothian yellow, since the SNP with eight, an Independent who vowed “anyone but Labour”, and a green councillor have joined forces against right Labour councillors. First non-Labour Midlothian council ever apparently. Not sure how long that is. Here’s a link anyway:

    h ttp://

  48. Typo: “against eight Labour councillors”

  49. Dale and Beyonce video! now that really would be something.. :)

    I read in NewsNet Scotland regarding Midlothian council and apparently it’s been Labour long before the last ice age, in fact the first leader was a Neanderthal called Bora the Great!!

  50. @ R Huckle

    “I am sure that this is being spread by governments who need to increase the pensionable age.

    Yes it is correct that statistically people are living an extra 5 years, more than would have 20/30 years ago, but I would question whether making people work into their 70?s is a good idea.

    I could go on to comment about the fairness issue which is often debated, between one generation that have benefited from OK pensions and lower house prices, with the next generation who cannot afford house prices and many who don’t have any pensions. But I will resist, as it would wear my keyboard out.

    All I will say, is that governments in all countries are taking decisions, that will have massive consequences in the years to come.”

    Maybe it’s different in Europe where there’s more income equality but I’ve noticed that the people who seem a lot younger than their years tend to be on the wealthy side. 60 year old wealthy types don’t act or look 60 anymore. But those who are working class or in poverty are still aging.

    Ironically, it sets up a very unfair conundrum (if this is true). The wealthy are aging far more slowly these days and living far longer. They’re the ones though who need the retirement benefits from the government the least (not that I support means testing for social security and Medicare because I absolutely DON’T) while those who are poorer are continuing to age quickly and are the ones most likely in need of retirement benefits.

    I think that it’s true that the older generation seems to want to take from the younger. At least in the United States, Baby Boombers seem very willing to take from Millenials and don’t seem to consider the overall consequences. Or they do but they don’t cognitively recognize their own actions as contributing.

    I’m not opposed outright to raising the retirement age. I would think it would be better to allow people to keep the benefits they earned but make them get those benefits a little bit later if that means keeping the system solvent.

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