London Mayor Rises as Rival to Britain’s Cameron

Boris Johnson is seen as a successor who could appeal to the Tory right as well as centrist voters.

London mayor Boris Johnson poses for a photo, November 24, 2011
London mayor Boris Johnson poses for a photo, November 24, 2011 (i-Images/Andrew Parsons)

In the aftermath of what can be said to have been a resounding success for the city of London, hosting the Olympic Games for a third time, there has been rampant speculation that Mayor Boris Johnson may seek the Conservative Party leadership and with it, the premiership.

Johnson’s rise in the party coincides with the resurgence of the Tory right. Boris is liked by this segment of the party for his stance on cutting the top income tax rate to 40 percent, his support for state grammar schools and his repeated calls that Britain ought to seriously rethinking its relationship with the European Union.

The London mayor is among few political leaders who are known by their first names to the electorate, to the point that on the eve of the opening of the Olympiad this summer, there was a crowd of 60,000 gathered in Hyde Park chanting his name as they waited for the Conservative politician to appear on stage.

Since winning a second term in May, Johnson has differentiated himself from Prime Minister David Cameron by calling for a referendum on Europe, opposing House of Lords reform and demanding more pro-growth measures, all of which have been well received by Conservative lawmakers. At the same time, he appeals to centrist voters who welcome his support for gay marriage and sympathize with his flexible views on immigration.

Contrast this picture of a rising Boris with that of George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer. He seems to have been slipping down the Conservative Party leader board since the May 2012 budget which included the infamous “pastry tax” on bakery products and “granny tax,” which was actually a freeze in pensioners’ taxable income, to the overwhelming dislike of the electorate.

A YouGov survey earlier this year suggested that a six point Labour lead over Cameron’s Conservative Party would be cut to just one point if Boris Johnson were in charge. He is favored by 32 percent of party members, according to a poll of party activists conducted by the Conservative Home website.

At last week’s party conference in Birmingham, David Cameron endorsed Johnson as a potential future leader of the right, saying, “You should think about other public service that you can give because I think you’ve got a huge amount to give.”

With such praise coming from Cameron, who many see as Boris’ rival, what happens in the 2015 general election could shape the future of the Conservative Party.

Leave a reply