Read more : Read more : Ryan Shorthouse: March 2008

Monday, 24 March 2008

A clever communications strategy is behind Boris’s current success

37 days to go. May 1st will be a key indicator of what colour the political landscape will be from 2010 and beyond. If London turns blue, the country will probably follow when Brown finally calls that General Election. A loss for Livingstone is a big loss for Labour: it shows that Londoners are not only sick of New Labour, they’re finally ready for the Conservatives again. The PM knows this: he’s recruited Tessa Jowell to mobilise Labour MP’s to campaign for Ken. Expect even greater effort from Labour Headquarters in April, and a series of attacks on Boris’s controversial past behaviour.

49% of Londoners currently support Boris- more than the proportion of people across the nation who support the Tory party. And Ken hovers in the thirties, even dropping to 24% in a recent poll. This is a time of economic uncertainty: people are worried about their jobs and their mortgages. If the London elections were a clown contest, Boris would surely beat all of his contenders. How then did BJ come to be in the winning position?

Let’s not forget that Londoners like living in this city because it is full of colourful, diverse people. They want a colourful mayor. Ken has made the error of thinking overly serious is in demand. Frankly, he seems uncomfortable stuffy and stern. People preferred him as a loveable rogue. Yes, times are bad. But don’t rub our faces in it by being utterly miserable.

Crucially however, Boris appears to have gravitas as well as humour. Those involved in the campaign seem to have implemented a clever communications strategy and placed Boris in an almost unbeatable political position: the jovial BoJo remains, but Londoners need not panic since he his tightly monitored by the central party and has an experienced and expert team behind him to deliver sound and popular policies. Indeed, since the New Year, when the campaign really kicked off, we’ve seen an impressive set of proposals: scrapping the bendy bus, interactive bus tracking, free London bus travel for injured war veterans, hand-held scanners at stations to detect knifes and guns, 3 new rape crisis centres, and community service for troublemakers who want their free oyster card back.

Conservative Headquarters know how important this election is. It is the first time Cameroon Conservatism will be judged by the electorate. They have, quite rightly, a tight grip on all things Boris. Controversial remarks could spoil the lead he now enjoys. To their credit, the communications message seems to be resonating, and needs to continue: Boris, the most exciting candidate, is a good spokesperson for Londoners. But he is surrounded by a team that will, even after the election, deliver serious and substantial change for London.