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Another sign of Boris’s growing self-confidence

By Peter Hoskin
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BorisHe’s astonishing, really, Boris. After having the Olympic crowds chanting his name, it seems he’s now going to pull off another remarkable feat: court Rupert Murdoch, in full view of the public, at the Olympics. It’s being reported that the Australian tycoon and his wife are guests of the Mayor’s at the swimming on Friday.

Team BoJo have been quick to point out that it’s a long-standing invitation, and that other guests will be present. But it’s hard not to read this as another example of Boris’s intellectual self-confidence. He is already the politician who stood up for bankers and attacked the 50p rate. Now he is the politician who is willing to sit next to Mr Murdoch.

Boris’s friends and opponents will be watching keenly — because if he can pull this sort of thing off, and remain popular, what can’t he pull off? There are, of course, a thousand obstacles in the way of him becoming party leader. But, thanks to the latest ConservativeHome opinion poll, we already know that he is the grassroots’ choice to succeed David Cameron. The blond tide is swelling.

Before signing off, however, what better place than here to collect some of the reaction to that opinion poll? Tim has already quoted from the Independent’s coverage and his own article for the Times, but they have been followed by other outlets today, including the BBC:

“A survey of Tory members by the ConservativeHome website is the latest indication that the popularity of Chancellor George Osborne - previously held to be the favourite to succeed David Cameron - has fallen sharply.

It suggests 32% favour London's mayor to succeed Mr Cameron, ahead of William Hague (24%) and Michael Gove (19%). Mr Osborne scores just two per cent.

Commentators seem agreed that the exact route of the journey is far from mapped out, but Mr Johnson is pointed very much in the right direction.

ConservativeHome editor Tim Montgomerie believes Mr Johnson has a winning combination of authentic Conservatism and an ease with modern Britain which still eludes many senior party figures.”

By Isabel Hardman at Coffee House:

“[The poll numbers are] impressive, not least for the obvious reason that Boris isn’t actually an MP and has a significant obstacle to overcome of relinquishing his job as Mayor and being re-elected. But it also shows that Boris is no longer the joke candidate. Yes, he says the most absurd things on a daily basis, but those are now viewed as part of his appeal rather than acting against him: he’s shown he can run City Hall and get re-elected into that position.”

Steve Richards in his column for the Independent:

“Johnson awakes most mornings to read another opinion poll citing him as the most popular successor to David Cameron as Conservative leader – and by a wide margin. Other potential candidates are nowhere in sight. He is the only Tory since 1992 to win a major election, and he has done so twice in London where the majority of voters supported Labour even in the 2010 general election. At the same time, he attracts the glowing praise of Tim Montgomerie from the influential ConservativeHome website, who in a powerful article yesterday suggested that Boris was a more authentic moderniser than some of those in the Cabinet. To be endorsed by Labour London and ConservativeHome suggests that Boris is precisely what the Conservatives need as a leader, an authentic figure with broad appeal. Heaven, indeed.

But it will not happen. Boris will never be leader of the Conservative Party. It cannot happen.”

And Rafael Behr for the New Statesman, also sceptical of Boris’s chances:

“Meanwhile, provoking chatter about Boris's chances of succeeding Cameron was a poll for ConservativeHome naming him the activists' favourite. I stand by my column analysis that this is more a proxy expression of dismay and disappointment with the current leader than serious contemplation of Boris as Prime Minister. There are many obstacles to Johnson actually becoming leader

Aside from the technical impediments - such as Boris not actually being an MP - there is the much more serious question of irresponsibility and pathological unseriousness. As one former Boris staffer said to me recently in a tone of weary incredulity aiming to kill off the idea of Prime Minister Johnson: ‘Just imagine him for a second in charge of defence.’”


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