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Will May 1st resolve whether Toffs are electable?

March 31st, 2008

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    Could the City Hall outcome be a marker for Downing Street?

If London ITV is following its normal pattern then either today or tomorrow we should see a new opinion poll of voters in the capital on the London mayoralty. The organisation commissioned a YouGov survey at the end of every month since December and let us hope that it is following the normal pattern.

I took last week’s news, which wasn’t as far as I know denied, that Downing Street thought that Ken was going to be beaten as a sure sign that Labour’s private polling was confirming that Boris was ahead by a substantial margin – a fortnight ago YouGov had it at 12%.

So the evidence is mounting that the Tories will take City Hall in four and a half week’s time and certainly this is how punters are seeing it. The latest betting has Boris at 0.47/1.

    But the mayoral race is, after all, only a local election. The big question is whether it will tell us anything about the general election and whether, in particular, being a “Toff” is no longer an electoral liability.

Certainly conventional wisdom in the Tory party has been that going to Eton and Oxbridge, like Boris and Dave, could alienate voters and, indeed, this was said to be one of the main reasons in 1990 why Douglas Hurd’s leadership bid floundered.

This view has been shared by many in the Labour party – just look at the way it has sought to portray both Johnson and Cameron. Only a month ago at the party’s spring conference Boris coming from Eton and “being posh” were a key part of the anti-Johnson rhetoric. This might fire up the activists but if it is shown not to impact on elections then other lines of attack on Cameron will need to be emphasised.

In the general election betting I can see a Tory victory on May 1st prompting an even stronger move to the Tories – but a lot could happen in the next month.

Mike Smithson






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