This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 31%, LAB 44%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 8%. A thirteen point Labour lead is the highest YouGov have shown since the end of June. All the normal caveats apply about reading too much into a poll – sure, it could be a sign of a growing Labour lead as we move away from the holidays and big events of the Summer… or it could just be an outlier. Keep an eye on it.
This morning the Sun also published a fresh set of “how would you vote with Boris as leader?” questions, actually asked as part of yesterday’s YouGov poll. They showed the same pattern we have become familar with in Boris questions since the Olympics began. YouGov first asked a control question asking how people would vote if the present leaders remain in place (this is to isolate the Boris effect from any Miliband or Clegg effect) – this reduced the 11 point Labour lead in YouGov’s poll yesterday to an 8 point lead when Miliband, Cameron and Clegg are mentioned. When people were asked how they would vote with Boris this fell further, down from an 8 point lead to a 1 point Labour lead – CON 37%, LAB 38%, LDEM 11%.
I will make all my normal caveats about hypothetical questions – people are answering them on very low levels of information. They mostly know who Boris is, and they’ll have an idea of what sort of personality Boris has and what he is like… and it clearly demonstrates that for many people this is something that may well change their vote. They don’t really know what policies Boris would put forward as a leader, how he would operate as a Prime Minister, how the media would react to and report upon Boris as PM (right now they see him through the media prism of “Ah Boris, stuck on a zip wire, what a laugh!”. Imagine how easily the media indulgence he gets as a political joker could turn sour “Hopelessly blundering PM in yet another diplomatic gaffe”, “out of his depth”, “national embarrassment” etc).
As an aside, the biggest problems with a Boris for PM story are little to do with public opinion, they are the practical obstacles of not being in Parliament, and not being able to get there without it being interpreted and reported as a direct leadership challenge. I am sure Boris could return to Parliament without too vast a difficultly. I suspect if he already was an MP he would win a leadership election if he reached the final vote of party members (MPs slightly trickier). However while he is outside Parliament the mere act of standing for a seat would immediately be interpreted by the media and by any potential leadership rivals as the start of a long, drawn-out leadership challenge with all the division and damage that would cause.