Why Boris will have to get off his leadership bike

1 Oct 2013 at 10:13

No doubt Louise Mensch was a perfectly adequate MP for Corby, but lecturing the Tory Party from the comfort of New York on how to win elections via a SUN column seems rather off world.

The latest gem from planet Mensch is that the way Cameron gets an outright majority is to put Boris Johnson in charge of the election campaign by making him Party Chairman. Being Chairman in the run up to an election requires hard work, dedication, an eye for detail and loyalty to your leader.

Boris has many admirable assets at his disposal, but none of the above. He is the Katie Price of British politics. If he is not constantly in the news and if we, his adoring public, are not continuously offering our unconditional love and admiration, his world falls apart. This probably explains his enigmatic offerings about how nostalgic he feels about the House of Commons. I suspect it was more his feeling of nostalgia of not being mentioned of late as the man everyone is praying for to lead the Conservative party.

Last night I witnessed his car crash interview with Jeremy Paxman. Boris was his usual charming self but clearly hadn’t bothered to prepare at all. By and large if you are intending to go into the tiger’s cage it is a good idea to work out a plan on how not to be eaten or mauled. Paxo maimed, mauled and had a most satisfying snack.

I have no doubt that today Boris will wow the Party Faithful. But they have moved on. Cameron is now no longer an embattled leader sleeping with one eye open and a revolver under his pillow. He has everything to play for. He is now seen as a winner.

Miliband’s conference bounce has turned into a dead cat one. Today’s You Gov poll reduces labour’s lead from 11 to 6%. And he has nailed his colours to the mast as a Socialist and an interventionist. Two words that have not been uttered in labour politics since 1995. This will please about 20% of voters and terrify the rest.

To be fair, the promise to freeze energy prices has proved to be popular. The energy companies give a very good impression of ripping us off. The coalition is well aware of the strength of public feeling and if the regulator needs more powers he must get them. And fast. This could be Ed Davey’s moment.

So poor old Boris is going to get more and more frustrated as the Tories rally behind their leader and gear up for the election. His old strategist, Lynton Crosby who saved his bacon, will probably have to tell him the facts of political life yet again and remind him that his role now is to be a Cameron cheer leader.

This will not go down well. Boris will be reluctant to get off his leadership bike. But if he is perceived to be rocking the boat he will be thrown overboard.

And UKIP? Well, the policy is now clear. If UKIP supporters want to stop the march to Socialism, vote Tory. And absolutely no local deals let alone national ones.

This makes sense. The nearer we get to an election the more the dark than the dotty side of the KIPPERS will be revealed. And any Tory with any sense will not want to be associated with that lot. So I hope the strategy is to terrify their supporters with the threat of Red Ed, whilst exposing the UKIP policy vacuum. Maybe it was my imagination, but I did get the impression that Farage seemed rather desperate in Manchester.

But they shouldn’t be written off just yet. They will still do well in the European elections. But breaking the mould? Daft. In 1983 election the SDP were just two points behind labour and in 1981 twenty three Labour MPs crossed the floor with twenty one Tories seriously considering it. Now that’s breaking the mould. And what happened to them?

And Farage demanding that he be part of the television debates? Quite bonkers. Even the Greens have more seats than his lot.

The interesting contrast about the Manchester conference is that it is brimming with new policies where as Labour was virtually a policy free zone. The fight (and there will be one) with the GPs about making their surgeries more patient friendly will go down well with the public. Although the growls from May and Hurricane Grayling (everything he touches becomes a disaster zone) about tearing up the Human Rights Act are just window dressing and just won’t happen in such lurid terms. There will be more of a tinker than a tear, particularly when it involves national security. What the public want to be reassured about is that those who are a threat to their safety will be hooked out of the country pronto.

So it all hinges, as it always does, on the Leader’s speech.Red Ed is no longer a myth dreamt up by the Tory press, but a terrifying reality. And with Damian McBride’s little book of horrors the sky is black with Brownite chickens coming home to roost.

Like Banquo’s ghost Gordon Brown’s spectre will be scaring the hell out the electorate for a long time to come.

But the time has come to be more up beat. The economy is on the move, jobs are being created there is a light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t the train. Osborne hit precisely the right tone yesterday. If there are rewards everyone must have a share in them. But before the Tory right start howling for tax cuts remember that Thatcher refused to bring them in by borrowing. That must never be the option of a responsible government.

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