James Kanagasooriam

Why Tories should think carefully before backing Boris

In my old job as an investment banker, there were two schools of thought about how to get the best return. Long-term funds – where money was invested over a number of years; and short-term ones – which sought quick returns wherever it could be found. The Conservative party now finds itself facing a similar dilemma: wondering whether to make the short term bet – aping the Brexit Party’s push for no deal in the hope of an immediate recovery from its dire position. Or whether to take the long view: make for the centre ground while still delivering Brexit. The latter is a strategy that is riskier in the medium term but could represent better long-term success. So what should the Tories do? And is Boris Johnson really the man to turn around the party’s ailing fortunes?

How to win?

If the Conservatives and Labour are in first and second place respectively (a challengeable assumption given the state of the polls, particularly recent numbers out from Lord Ashcroft) the next Tory leader only needs to have an approval rating 10-15 per cent points higher than Corbyn for a majority Tory Government to be returned.

The extraordinarily-strong relationship between leader ratings and what happens at a general election has not changed (when all else has) in the past four years. This is now almost the last cast iron rule of politics that has not shifted, even in the age of Trump and Brexit.

Relationship between leader ratings and general election outcome

The bad news for Corbyn

For Labour, this makes grim reading. Why? Because Corbyn has upended typical opposition leader performance, given the position in the electoral cycle we’re in.

The trends for the last 35 years are for opposition leader ratings to increase while their party is out of power. This continues until their party takes over, when their approval rating usually dips.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in