Take a look at the photo on the front page of the The Times this morning and you'll understand why Boris is 12 points ahead of Ken in the race for Mayor of London: That boyish and affable Boris appears to have spontaneously thrown his arm around his rival's neck at a debate last night. Ken is smiling and returning the embrace, but if I had to put money on it, I very much doubt that was his idea.
So how has this Tory achieved a double-digit lead in a town that otherwise loves Labour and during a time that voters feel the Conservative Party is out of touch? Well, according to today's Times/ Populus poll, 96% of those surveyed said that his performance as Mayor was a deciding factor in their support.
Frankly, I think that's a load of rubbish.
The big reason Boris is winning is because he is irresistibly likeable. The man effortlessly disarms voters and the media alike, while making us feel that we somehow know him. Money can't buy this type of political advantage. Sure, he can be a loose cannon at times, but it is precisely because he seems unscripted and authentic that people love him.
Then there's a second reason. His Conservative messages are clear and thoroughly populist. "I am, overall, a tax-cutting Conservative", he said in a Telegraph interview this weekend. Why doesn't the prime minister say this sort of thing?
He says that the key values driving his campaign are, "Freedom, democracy, taxpayer value and building up the sense of neighbourliness and duty towards each other." What self-respecting liberal can oppose these ideals?
That's not all. He's happy to get specific about how these principles have and will be translated into policy: "I've got to look at what I can do to bear down on people's expenses... We've frozen council tax over four years, we'll have cut it by 10% in the next four years".
This is conservatism at its best, without seeming ideologically divisive. Here's a guy who seems to understand what most people need in this economic environment and knows how to talk to people.
But let's be honest here. Some of the enthusiasm for Boris, particularly in Conservative circles, is a reflection of the disappointment with the current Tory leadership. The murky business of coalition politics has made it hard for supporters to feel buoyant or stay fired up, while Cameron and pals just don't seem to relate to normal people. For the first time in a long time, party members can enjoy the feeling of a genuinely popular Conservative. The party leadership should take this as a signal that it needs to revamp its communication strategy.
In the meantime, I'm joining the millions that are backing Boris, and will be celebrating when he wins this week.
And the next time I run into him, I shall throw my arm around him and say, "Congratulations, my friend, you deserve it. Well done".
I bet he'll even act like we know each other.Suggest a correction