By Andrew Gimson
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In Chambers Dictionary, the word “authentic” is defined as “genuine: authoritative: true, entitled to acceptance, of established credibility: trustworthy, as setting forth real facts…”
Our politicians are very often dismissed as a bunch of proven liars: greedy, bogus, unreliable, untrustworthy and unentitled to the benefit of the doubt. So one can see why they would prefer to be considered authentic.
But how does one attain authenticity? One cannot go around saying “I am authentic”, any more than in former times one could go around saying “I am honourable” or “I am a gentleman”.
The quality of authenticity has to be shown rather than proclaimed. It proceeds from being seen to be true to oneself. But for a politician, this requires the courage, or foolhardiness, to believe that one’s true self is what the voters are looking for.
"He is the Ulysses of our time, and sees the leadership as his Penelope. The Mayoralty is only Calypso - a stopping-point on the way back to what he sees as his own, as his possession. His competitors are the suitors. He is coming for them with a quiverful of fiery arrows."
The Mayor of London's leadership ambitions are haunted by what Donald Rumsfeld would call a Known Known and a Known UnKnown.
The Known Known is the unhappy timing, from his point of view, of the next general and Mayoral elections. The first takes place in May 2015. The second takes place a year after. Were Boris to re-enter the Commons in 2015 and David Cameron to lose, the election the former would not be able to enter an immediate Conservative leadership contest without being seen to break his word to serve a full-term as Mayor. (It is one thing to be both Mayor and an MP, as Ken Livingstone has done. It would be another to be both Mayor and a Party leader.)
The Known UnKnown is the general election result. I write above about the possibility of Cameron no longer being Prime Minister after 2015, but it's far from certain that this will be the case. He may well return to Downing Street at the head of another coalition government - either a recasting of this one with the Liberal Democrats, or a new one with the minor parties. A Boris who had re-entered the Commons would, in these circumstances, be entitled to a Cabinet post: given his twice-victorious record in London, a Labour City, it could scarcely be otherwise.
The results of our latest survey, conducted late last week, now find as follows:
Gove's steady rise will reflect the view of members that he is the Government's most effective Minister - in terms both of shaping policy to Conservative ends and taking on the left.
There's no convincing reason for Boris's fall of ten points other than the obvious one: he hasn't been in the news much during the past month.
This poll should be read in conjunction with James Forsyth's column in this week's Spectator. James sets out the Mayor's planned path to the Premiership - which we will return to.
More directly to the point, as far as this poll is concerned, is Boris's apparent belief that Gove will now not run for the leadership post-2015 if David Cameron loses.
James claims that the Mayor now sees Theresa May, the deporter of Abu Qatada, as his main potential rival. She's up in our poll - but her rise is modest.
Gove may not stand for the leadership if his friend, David Cameron, vacates it. Or he may. But one thing is certain: he has no shortage of admirers who would urge him to.
These include the Prime Minister himself. George Osborne, of course, is not on easy terms with Boris, to put it mildly.
The prospect of the Cameron and Osborne duo pleading with Gove to stand - and preserve their legacy from the ravages of Boris - is not so far-fetched as to be beyond raising.
The sum of Lord Ashcroft's stupendously sizeable poll about Boris Johnson this morning - Ashcroft Polls will soon be taking samples from the entire country - is that the London Mayor is more popular but less rated than the Prime Minister. Our proprietor writes on this site today -
"When asked who would make the best PM, each of the three party leaders or Boris, David Cameron came out narrowly ahead on 33 per cent, two points ahead of Ed Miliband, four points ahead of Boris and 26 points ahead of Clegg. Among Conservatives, Cameron was the clear winner over Boris, by 81 per cent to 18 per cent."
Stephan Shakespeare wrote recently on this site about a YouGov poll on Boris, which found that "30 per cent of the intending voters in this sample said they would vote Conservative with Cameron in charge, and 36 per cent said they would vote Conservative with Johnson".
However, as Shakespeare himself pointed out, polls that ask how people would vote today were the party leaders different are highly speculative. His polling converges with Lord Ashcroft's in finding that Boris scores well with UKIP voters, despite his shape-shifting views on Britain's EU membership.
All in all, Boris has protean strengths, some weaknesses and a proven track record as a Conservative election winner in what is essentially a Labour city - as well as a marvellous sense of the challenges facing ever-pullulating London.
But there is no evidence that he is better placed to succeed David Cameron than Michael Gove or Theresa May or the unexpected candiate who pops up in leadership elections and usually wins. Furthermore, the timing of a Boris Commons re-entry and a post-2015 poll don't fit neatly: he remains Mayor until 2106.
And finally, the whole caboodle may never arise, since Cameron could well lead a re-formed Coalition after the next election. I end in oleaginous agreement with the proprietor: the case for Boris as leader isn't proven, and it's too early to start making it.
By Harry Phibbs
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Toby Young has given ten reasons why the Mayor of London Boris Johnson will be better off bald.
Mr Young says:
I was heartened by the pictures showing that the Mayor of London is losing his hair. Far from his political career being damaged by this, as Guido Fawkes seems to think, I believe it will be enhanced. After all, baldness is a sign of maturity and intelligence, while blondness is associated with frivolity and stupidity. This could be just the thing to convince people that Boris really can be entrusted with our nuclear launch codes.
The Prime Minister has been criticised for baldist language in the past making a reference to the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne as Baldemort.
However Mr Cameron's prejudice, if it exists, clearly does not extend to prohibit the bald from serving in the cabinet.
Paul contributed to this debate last year. Here is another chance to see the accompanying graphic showing what a bald Prime Minister and Chancellor would look like and also giving us a glimpse of how the Mayor of London will appear in due course.
By Tim Montgomerie
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Boris Johnson is the only Tory politician to have won a major election in more than twenty years. He won in traditionally Labour territory. Twice. Once in the middle of a period of Tory-led austerity. His popularity with the general public is exceptional. The bounce he enjoyed after last summer's Olympics has been sustained according to a ComRes poll in yesterday's Independent on Sunday. He enjoys a favourability rating of 44% compared to Cameron's 23%. In the absence of a compelling alternative the Tories would be making a good bet in choosing Boris as their leader at some unknown point in the future. If the party does ever choose him as its leader it should go into the arrangement with its eyes wide open, however. As I argue in today's Times (£) Boris is typical of a number of centre right politicians who have prospered in normally left-of-centre jurisdictions... and that will upset some Tories.
Boris is similar to other centre right politicians who've prospered in left-of-centre cities and states. He shares Arnold Schwarzenegger's relaxed approach to immigration and some of the former California Governator's greenery. Like New York's Giuliani he has the same commitment to abortion rights and full equality for gay people and minorities. Like the interventionist Heseltine - Maggie's minister for Liverpool after the 1980s riots - he favours grands projets.
William Hague was dispatched into the television studios yesterday to dismiss as "nonsense" claims that GCHQ has been seeking to circumvent the law by using data gathered by foreign intelligence systems, and will make a Commons statement about the matter later today. A central question is whether GCHQ has been making a indiscriminate trawl of information - of the kind that has led critics of the Data Communications Bill to dub it a "snoopers' charter" - or whether it has been carrying out targeted searches for information (an activity which even as dedicated a civil libertarian as David Davis indicates should be permissible).
Today's Times editorial calls on the Foreign Secretary to clarify everything and anything he can - "how concerned the United Kingdom is about the potential of its citizens’ data being scrutinised by another country", what the case is for the Data Communications Bill, whether allegations that GCHQ have circumvented the law are true or false. "The tightrope between public confidence and public safety is one that must be walked," it concludes, and Boris Johnson's message is no different: "There is a trade-off between freedom and security, as Barack Obama rightly says; between the citizen’s right to total internet privacy, and the duty of the state to protect us all from harm."
There is little else to be said once that inevitable conclusion has been reached, but the London Mayor does a marvellously entertaining job of it, as he does each Monday morning. His party trick is to haul an anecdote into each column to illustrate his central contention: today, it is being hacked while in China. "I am afraid I just forged on with whatever I was doing, and it may be that the moles are still there in the innards of my laptop, secretly relaying useless information to their masters". As he says, "I have never trusted the security of the internet, or emails, or indeed texts – because it [is] that any data you sent to some server or database or gizmo [can] no longer be in any sense private." Nothing can change that, whatever Hague says today.
By Mark Wallace
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The need for politicians to reconnect with the electorate is beyond debate. Falling turnout, the collapse in party memberships, and widespread disillusionment with politics and its practitioners all demonstrate the scale of the problem.
The initial reaction of the political class to this problem was to come up with the worst possible response: blaming the people.
Even the choice of word to label the issue was patronising and inaccurate: apathy. All the polling, as well as the clear evidence of growing online activism and rising pressure group membership, shows that people don't care any less than before about political issues.
Rather, voters increasingly feel that the political process, and the parties who operate within it, does not offer any solution to their problems. Why donate, volunteer and vote if in return there is no appreciable change?
The Davis support is hardcore. When asked who should lead the Party into the next election, 14% of respondents name him. 15% plump for Boris.
But the overwhelming favourite to lead the Conservatives into the next election is...David Cameron, with over half the vote: 55% to be precise.
Apart from Davis and Boris, no other leading Tory gets out of single figures. William Hague comes the closest, at just over 5%.
Just under 1850 people responded to the survey, of whom over 800 were Conservative Party members. The figures above are taken from the latter's views.
By Andrew Gimson
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Boris Johnson today reminds us that there is nowhere more beautiful than England in May. In his Telegraph column he describes, in the manner of a latter-day Jerome K. Jerome, a bicycle ride from London to Oxfordshire. It is a delightful Bank Holiday read.
And it has the other great advantage of keeping him off the political topic of the moment, which is how to deal with UKIP. Tories cannot help wondering which future leader might be able to reunite them with Conservative activists who have joined Nigel Farage’s party, and voters who support it.
Who, as it were, is the Farage of the Conservative party? Does it happen to possess a well-known man or woman who refuses to play the cautious game of the PPE graduates who lead the two main parties? Is there somewhere a Tory untainted by dreary political correctness, who is prepared to take risks and tell jokes? For in order to see off Farage, a person is required who sounds trenchant, independent-minded, staunchly Conservative, yet capable of appealing far beyond the ranks of signed-up Conservatives, not least because he or she has the ability to cheer people up, and appears to be fun to have a drink with.