On every one of the eight leadership qualities that YouGov tests regularly, Boris Johnson outscores David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg by vast amounts.
Few people will be surprised that Boris Johnson is now more popular than any of Britain’s three main political leaders. What is truly remarkable is the size of his lead. On every one of the eight leadership qualities that YouGov tests regularly, he outscores David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – mostly by vast amounts. It’s as if Mo Farah had not just won the 10,000 metre race at the Olympic stadium, but lapped all his rivals on the way to the finishing line.
In our poll for the Sun we first listed the current leaders of the three main parties and asked people how they would vote. Miliband’s Labour leads Cameron’s Conservatives by 40-32%. This represents a 7.5% swing to labour since 2010. On a uniform swing, Labour, with 371 seats, would have an overall majority of 92. The Conservatives would lose 76 seats and end up with just 231.
Next we asked people how they would vote if Boris were Tory leader instead. This time the swing to Labour would halve, to 4%. The Conservatives, on 37%, would be neck-and-neck with Labour, 38%. This time Labour’s overall majority would be just eight. The Tories, on 278 seats, would be down just 29 on their 2010 total. Almost two-thirds of the MPs who would lose their seat under Cameron would be safe under Boris. Nationally, a Boris-led Tory party would win 1.5 million more votes than a Cameron-led Tory party. Instead of a Labour near-landslide, we’d have a cliff-hanger.
The reason is not hard to fathom. We asked people to consider eight leadership qualities and asked which apply to each leader in turn. By asking respondents to pick from a list, we find out which qualities really strike home. As a rough guide, for any given leader and any given quality in this kind of question, any score above 25% is good, 15-25% fair, and below 15% poor.
Now look at how the four leaders did:
|Cameron %||Miliband %||Clegg %||Johnson %|
Sticks to what he believes in
In touch with the concerns of ordinary people
A natural leader
Good in a crisis
None of these / don’t know
However you carve those figures, Boris emerges triumphant. He beats all the party leaders on every count. On only one (being in touch with the concerns of ordinary people) does any other leader come close. And look at the last line. For each of the national leaders, most people have nothing good to say. But with Boris the proportion saying “none” or “don’t know” is only 28%. Turn those figures round, and these are the proportion of people applying at least one positive quality to each leader: Johnson: 72%, Cameron 43%, Miliband 36%, Clegg 26%.
Now, a word of warning. As with any poll, our figures provide a snapshot of public attitudes this week, in the immediate aftermath of the Olympic Games. They do not predict how Boris might be viewed next year or at the next general election. Were he to return to the House of Commons and face critical examination of his national policies, voters’ views might change. As I have argued before, a mayor basking jovially in the reflected glory of the Olympics might be regarded in a different light from a national leader seeking to have his finger on the nuclear trigger.
For the moment, however, the Boris bounce is simply enormous. He is Britain’s Heineken politician: refreshing parts of the public that other politicians can’t reach. Even if his popularity doesn’t last, it poses an awkward challenge not just to Cameron, but to Clegg and Miliband too. Are there lessons they urgently need to learn from this remarkable phenomenon?