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Coffee House

When it comes to personality, Boris will always win 

10 April 2012

3:11 PM

10 April 2012

3:11 PM

The fight for London Mayor election has well and truly descended into a
clash of personalities. Policies have all but disappeared while candidates trade attacks in the press. The Guardian, duly unimpressed, has written a scathing leader attacking both sides for this strategy:

‘The early days of the London campaign have fallen well short of what the voters are entitled to expect. Almost everything has been focused on the egos, lifestyles and personalities of
the two main candidates, Boris Johnson of the Conservatives and Ken Livingstone for Labour.

Mr Johnson, arguably a better mayor than some feared but evasive and woolly on the detail as ever, has run a deliberately negative campaign with little vision. Mr Livingstone, an ageing
machine politician with surprisingly little new to say, has promised hazily costed fare cuts and flirted with some nasty ethnic politics.’

But the Times don’t seem to have such a problem with this dimension of the race. In fact today, they released (£) the results of their focus group in Bromley — a key battleground — to see how they feel about Boris
and Ken. The pro-Boris sentiment of 2008 appears to have weathered his first term pretty well:

‘Residents in a key suburban borough defended his privileged background, work ethic and even his extramarital affairs. Praise for Mr Johnson was expressed in terms rarely heard in
connection with domestic politicians, as members of the focus group suggested that he combines Margaret Thatcher’s principled resolve with the Duke of Edinburgh’s outspoken
honesty.’

[Alt-Text]


There was less enthusiasm for Ken, who was described by the residents of Bromley as ‘slimy, dishonest and damaged.’ But the most extraordinary comment was likening Lady
Thatcher to Boris. ‘We need a strong leader, another Margaret Thatcher,’ said one resident. ‘At least she had the courage of her convictions. She’s like Boris Johnson, but in a different
way. In a dress.’ Even Boris might dismiss that one.

This sort of clash was inevitable when two such strong personalities were pitted against each other once again. But focusing the election on these lines was always going to benefit Boris. 50 per
cent of Londoners think the current mayor is ‘charismatic’ while just 13 per cent who say the same about his predecessor. Ken’s mistake was to begin on a negative footing with his ‘fare
pickpocket’ and ‘chicken-feed’ slogans; had he made the race about transport or housing or living standards, he would be in a much better position. This may well be his undoing, as the
concerns of Londoners fall into the background and 3 May is all about blonde vs bald.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


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