The Boris Effect

To the everyday observer of the Conservative Party′s election campaign one thing appears clear: everybody wants a piece of Boris.

In an attempt to win over the illusive swing voters Johnson has visited numerous constituencies as part of the Conservative Party′s general election campaign. From finger-painting at a school with the Prime Minister, to warning of the ′ajockalypse′ of a Labour-SNP alliance, Mr Johnson has done everything you′d expect a senior party figure (or, perhaps, a party leader) to do in the run up to polling day. Boris has even been the Tory rep for many of the campaign′s key media moments, with his debate against Red Ed on The Andrew Marr Show being seen by many commentators as a sign of potential confrontations to come. Aside from Boris′ aspirations, it appears the London Mayor is Conservative Campaign Headquarters′ (CCHQ) latest weapon, in its attempt to push us just over into a lead over Labour on election day.

Picture Above: Boris and Dave on the campaign trail (Photo by Number 10 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Picture Above: Boris and Dave on the campaign trail (Photo by Number 10 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the many marginal seats that the Party is both hoping to defend and to win in the quest of ensuring a Conservative victory tomorrow (7th May). In fact, a visit from Boris can be a real vote-winner. It is no surprise, therefore, that Boris has been the main man that candidates in marginal seats have been dying to be visited by. From Stroud to South Thanet, Ealing Central to Hampstead and Kilburn, Boris has been on a whistle-stop tour of Tory targets since the campaign kicked off, with local candidates hoping that Boris′ celebrity will serve them well on election night.

So what is it that makes Boris so popular? It′s difficult to put a finger on. It could be the bluff and charm, which has helped him get out of tricky interview questions in the past. His position as the Mayor of London has certainly helped raise his profile and popularity amongst the diverse demographics found across the capital and outside of his traditional support within the Party. His popularity could also stem from his renowned oratory skills, which are largely influenced by his training in the classics: he is known for blurting out parts of The Iliad in interviews with Sky News and giving epic disquisitions on the importance of a homeland. The bluff, charm and classical references certainly sum to create the epitome of a Wodehousian English gent, making Boris (like Beyonce or Madonna, no surname is necessary) appear likeable, affable and trustworthy on policy, whilst simultaneously proposing cuts and other difficult to sell proposals.

Or, perhaps, it is just the hair.

Despite Boris′ presence on the national campaign, one must remember that he has his own battle to fight in the West London constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Personally, I am acutely aware of this fact being a member of this association and a local Conservative activist. Yes, the majority may be relatively large (with the retiring MP and SSEES alumnus, Sir John Randall, taking the seat by over 11,000 votes in 2010) but I’m the first to admit that we are an odd bunch in this particular London suburb and the majority are more likely to vote for a person they′ve met than a name they know. This is precisely why I think Boris is the best man for Uxbridge.

After campaigning with Boris on a number of occasions now, I have learnt two key lessons from my time with the London Mayor: 1. People flock to him like seagulls to discarded fish and chips on the Clacton seafront. And, 2. Never volunteer for balloon duty. Although the second lesson may be more personal than a universal truth, the first is undeniably true.

You cannot walk a hundred yards at Boris Johnson’s side without being stopped by swarms of people. Young and old, male and female, all hope to put their thoughts across to the would-be MP or snap that prized selfie to upload to social media. The number of people who have refused a leaflet with the customary “I don’t vote Tory” that I′ve then caught, a few minutes later, being photographed with the Mayor is bewildering. But that is the Boris effect. Love him or loathe him, vote Tory or not, everyone wants photographic proof that they′ve met this rare breed of celebrity and politician.

Picture above: one way to get out of a parking ticket. (via Twitter)

Shoppers rush to form a smartphone-wielding scrum from all corners of the high street. Mothers pass over their babies in the hope of capturing a memory for their young ones to look back on when they are grown up. Traffic wardens, builders, and bobbies-on-the-beat all leave work to come and have a chat. Whoever they may be and whatever they may be doing, they have time to talk to Boris and, more importantly, Boris has the time to talk to them.

Picture above: odds for Boris as party leader rise as he is photographed kissing a stranger’s baby. (via Twitter)


So that′s why, from my experience, Boris is not only the best man for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, but also the best man for the Tory campaigns in those key marginal seats required for electoral success. In an election campaign that has otherwise been characterised by its lack of interaction between politicians and the public, Boris′ willingness and success at conversing with ordinary voters is an unrivalled talent among party politicians. No one fails to smile when they bump into Boris and although that may not always convert into votes, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

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