Bloomberg News

London Mayor Johnson Preferred by Voters as Premier, Poll Shows

August 05, 2012

London Mayor Boris Johnson, boosted by his role in the 2012 Olympics, would be backed by more voters at an election than Prime Minister David Cameron and is attracting the support of wealthy donors, the Sunday Times reported.

A YouGov Plc (YOU) survey for the newspaper showed 37 percent of voters would be more likely to back the Conservative Party if Johnson were in charge, while 34 percent would back it with Cameron as leader. The newspaper said donors are urging Johnson to look beyond London to a national role.

“Boris is doing a great job as mayor of London and people love him the more they see him and that’s great,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News today. “I’m one of his biggest fans and campaigned hard for his reelection. But I think it is also true to say that I hope and believe we are not looking for a long time for any new leader of the Conservative Party.”

Pressure is mounting on Cameron and his finance chief George Osborne as they seek to implement the deepest budget cuts since World War II as the economy suffers its first double-dip recession in four decades. Cameron is also having trouble controlling Tory lawmakers in parliament who last week forced him to drop plans to overhaul the House of Lords.

The YouGov Poll showed Johnson was preferred by voters when asked who they would like to lead the Conservatives were Cameron to step down. The poll showed 24 percent backed him, 14 backed Hague and 3 percent backed Osborne. YouGov interviewed 1,744 people from July 31-Aug. 1.

“We have got the best leader and best prime minister we have had in a long time and I think it will be a long time before we Conservatives are looking to replace him,” Hague said.

Still, the Sunday Times, citing unidentified people, said “powerful financial backers” would rather Johnson were prime minister. It cited financier Peter Hall as saying Johnson should lead the country should the U.K. economy enter a “very, very serious recession.” Stanley Fink, former deputy chairman of the Man Group Plc (EMG) and co-Treasurer of the party, is quoted as saying Johnson would be a “strong candidate” to lead the party.

Cameron is set to abandon plans to overhaul the House of Lords amid opposition from rank-and-file members of his party, a person with knowledge of the matter said on Aug. 3. The move threatens to inflame tensions with Cameron’s Liberal Democrat coalition partners, for whom the introduction of a largely elected upper chamber of Parliament is a priority.

Cameron had promised “one more try” to rescue Lords reform after almost a third of Conservative lawmakers in the House of Commons voted against fast-tracking the legislation last month. The Liberal Democrats have threatened to block changes to electoral boundaries that may help the Conservatives at the 2015 general election unless the Tories back the bill.

Figures last month showing the economy contracted for a third quarter between April and June prompted renewed questions about Osborne’s economic plans and the pace of deficit reduction. Cameron and Osborne also drew criticism in the popular press for imposing a value-added tax on hot takeaway snacks in the annaul budget.

The backlash saw Conservative colleague Nadine Dorries deride Cameron and Osborne as “arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk.” Many of the budget decisions, including the tax on hot takeaway food, have since been reversed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gonzalo Vina in London at gvina@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net


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