Thursday, 28 March 2013

Seven points about today's Boris vs. Cameron poll

The Evening Standard have splashed today on a new poll showing that Boris Johnson would hand the Tories a significant bounce if he took over as leader.

This is all good fun, but it doesn't really tell us a great deal new. Here's why:

  1. The results are almost identical to a previous Boris vs Dave Yougov poll in October which showed Boris giving the Tories a seven point bounce. This poll shows him giving them a six point bounce.
  2. Neither poll puts the Tories ahead in either vote share or seats. With Boris as Tory leader, Labour would still be the largest party and would be just a few seats short of an overall majority (on a uniform swing).
  3. It would not be a uniform swing. Almost all of the bounce in today's poll comes from lost Conservative and Lib Dem voters and current UKIP voters. Labour's overall vote does not change at all with Boris as Tory leader.
  4. Most of the bounce is in London, and to a lesser extent the South East and the North. Boris would not do much better than Cameron in the Midlands, Wales or Scotland. Note of caution: the margin of error on subsamples like this is quite large.
  5. The Boris bounce is also mostly among younger voters. Voters over 39 (the group most likely to vote) are far less impressed.
  6. Hypothetical polls like this are inherently unreliable. We don't know what a Boris-led Tory party would look like, when it might happen, who the other party leaders might be by that time, or how Boris would perform.
  7. Without that information, this poll only really shows us that Boris is more popular than David Cameron. We knew that anyway.

Thanks to @darryl1974 for the photo.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The picture that sums up Michael Cockerell's Boris documentary

Anyone watching Michael Cockerell's documentary about Boris Johnson last night will have noticed the strange absence of his political opponents and rivals.

In the past Boris's team have lobbied hard to prevent critics, especially his biographer Sonia Purnell in particular, from appearing on the BBC.

She was not asked to take part in the documentary last night.

Michael Cockerell took a much gentler approach than Purnell and was rewarded with lots of access to Boris and his family as you can see in the picture above:

I've written a full review of the documentary over at MSN News. Read on...

Monday, 25 March 2013

More dodgy crime claims from Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson released his new Policing Plan today. To mark the occasion he has written about his glorious record at cutting crime in the Daily Telegraph:

"In London virtually every single crime type is down – everything including violent crime, car crime, vandalism, knife crime, youth violence, burglary, murder and robbery. It came down under my predecessor, and crime has fallen a further 13 per cent since I have been mayor."

This just isn't true. Violent crime, car crime, vandalism and murders have all come down in recent years. However, knife crime, youth violence, burglaries and robberies have all gone up.

Here's the latest full year totals of crimes recorded by the Metropolitan Police so you can judge for yourself.


In 2007-08 there were 37,000 robberies.
In 2008-09 there were 32,555 robberies.
In 2009-10 there were 33,470 robberies.
In 2010-11 there were 35,850 robberies.
In 2011-12 there were 38,897 robberies.

So robberies have gone up to an even higher level than they were when he was first elected.


In 2007-08 there were 93,894 burglaries.
In 2008-09 there were 93,553 burglaries.
In 2009-10 there were 92,796 burglaries.
In 2010-11 there were 93,375 burglaries.
In 2011-12 there were 96,181 burglaries.

Burglaries are up.

Knife Crime:

In 2008-09 there were 12,233 knife crimes.
In 2009-10 there were 12,560 knife crimes.
In 2010-11 there were 13,285 knife crimes.
In 2011-12 there were 14,121 knife crimes.

There has been a 15% rise in knife crime over the last few years according to these figures given to Parliament. (pdf)

Youth violence

In 2008-09 there were 6675 serious youth violence offences.
In 2009-10 there were 6777 serious youth violence offences.
In 2010-11 there were 6872 serious youth violence offences.
In 2011-12 there were 6906 serious youth violence offences.

Serious youth violence has also gone up in recent years according to these figures released under Freedom of Information.

The only way that Boris can claim that robbery, burglary, knife crime and youth violence are down is by cooking the books. 

Full Fact said last year of his method:

"measuring crime in this way is seriously problematic and masks crime trends during his own time in office"

As it clearly does when you look at the above figures.

The broader trend on crime is better for Boris. Here are the total recorded crimes over recent years.

Total Crimes

In 2007-08 there were 862,032 recorded crimes in London.
In 2008-09 there were 844,911 recorded crimes in London.
In 2009-10 there were 829,406 recorded crimes in London.
In 2010-11 there were 822,961 recorded crimes in London.
In 2011-12 there were 814,626 recorded crimes in London.

So crime has come down in London over recent years. However, it has only come down by about 5%, not by the 13% claimed by the Mayor.

Now there was a big drop in crime around the time of the Olympics last year, but even if you take the latest monthly figures, there has still only been around an 8% drop in crime since 2008.

My only criticism of Eddie Mair's interview with Boris yesterday is that it was yet another interview in which he wasn't questioned on his actual record.

The BBC had to go all the way back to his time with Michael Howard to find an example of his dishonesty.

Anybody who has followed his time as mayor knows that there are plenty more examples closer to hand.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Boris's calamitous Mair interview shows he has become battle soft

Boris Johnson had a terrible old time of it with Eddie Mair this morning.

It's so rare to see Boris submit himself to difficult interviews, that there was genuine shock from commentators on both the left and right at his performance.

The questions were not even that hard. They were all about controversies that happened long before he became mayor. They should have been incredibly easy for him to bat away.

That he couldn't is a sign of just how little used he is to serious scrutiny.

There are only four interviewers that Boris will regularly face for sit down interviews.

One is Andrew Marr who typically asks him very predictable questions about David Cameron and national politics.

The second is Jeremy Paxman, who is a good friend of Boris's, and usually just asks him knockabout stuff about wanting to be Prime Minister.

The third is Nick Ferrari on LBC radio and the fourth is Vanessa Feltz.

This is no accident. Boris's appearances are strictly controlled by his team.

Regular mayoral press conferences were cancelled right at the start of Boris's time in office and are only very occasionally held now.

Boris has refused countless invitations to appear on the London section of the Sunday Politics show and has only agreed to one interview with BBC London's political editor Tim Donovan in recent years.

During the last mayoral election, BBC London were denied access to him and were not even sent press releases saying where he would be from day to day.

Boris's team even threatened the BBC with a "wave of attacks" from "our friends in the papers" if they broadcast an interview with Boris's biographer Sonia Purnell.

None of this would matter if the press did their job, but the only newspaper to regularly cover his mayoralty is both owned and edited by his close friends.

As a result, Boris has become battle soft.

As I wrote in my piece for MSN News this weekend, Boris is just not used to being under fire.

When he does come under attack as he did at a disastrous appearance in Catford earlier this month, he handles it very badly indeed.

The main reason I find it hard to see Boris ever becoming Prime Minister is that I just don't think he would be very good at it.

Anybody who watched the hustings at the last mayoral elections, or sees him at his monthly mayor's question times, will have seen that he is actually a pretty poor debater.

Boris is great at the flag-waving stuff, and is always good for a colourful quote, but I just find it difficult to see him coping as the leader of the opposition, let alone as Prime Minister.

David Cameron may not be as likeable as Boris, but he can hold his own in the House of Commons. He can deal with difficult questions in interviews. He is just a much more professional politician.

Boris's lack of professionalism is a big part of his appeal of course, but I'm just not convinced it would survive the intense scrutiny of being a major player in national politics.

Boris has already had one parliamentary career. It was largely a disaster. 

I see no reason to believe that his return would be much more successful.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

George Osborne plays it too safe

Budget 2013: Osborne plays it too safe

Friday, 15 March 2013

Will George Osborne turn back from the cliff?

Budget 2013: George Osborne can save his career or the economy, but not both

Friday, 1 March 2013

David Cameron's attempts to mimic UKIP backfire spectacularly

Eastleigh byelection: Tories doomed to learn all the wrong lessons