Opinion: The mission to make Londoners love Boris

Profile after profile, repeated hilarious quotes, the fruity personal life. Creating interest in Boris Johnson was never a hard task. Establishing Boris, Mayor of London, was going to be more of a challenge.

It has been an odd campaign so far, the debate being more about personalities than policy. A visit to Johnson's website shows clear policy thoughts on safety, affordable homes, the environment and transport; yet, as one Tory MP put it: 'What is his top-line message, never mind the second? I'm not getting strongly enough what he stands for.'

Ken Livingstone has brazenly informed Londoners that everything is above board, brushing aside negative publicity from the Lee Jasper debacle/Evening Standard campaign and Channel 4's Dispatches documentary. And yet, in reality, there is everything to play for.

Johnson's PR team is formidable. East End-born Katie Perrior appears to need no sleep. Jo Tanner, although nearly six months pregnant, is a dynamo. They have been joined by political PR strategist Lynton Crosby, who previously worked with Australia's John Howard and the Conservative Party's Michael Howard. Crosby is a serious operator. Don't be fooled by the laid-back 'shrimp on the barbie' soft tones. Apart from his trademark 'message tightening', he has cultivated good co-operation between team Boris and the Conservative Party.

The situation is tricky. Asking Johnson to play it straight means he loses the USP his fans enjoy. If he carries on as class clown, he is not taken seriously. The effect he has on people has generated interest worldwide.

This week, Johnson made the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Staggering, when US politics has never been more interesting. Other internationals are following suit, because Johnson gives good copy. Perrior says: 'We have had more than 100 international bids and have had to say "no" to most of them; our focus is London. Last week, we had a bid from Brisbane radio and, inexplicably, lots of requests from Germany.' Perhaps it is the blond hair?

Crosby may be holding back the attack now. Johnson has said he wants a clean campaign. But, as election day approaches, expect him to up the ante. Crosby is always up for the fight.

Johnson and his team congregate early each morning in County Hall. Over the next 60 days, they will visit a different constituency every day and the focus will be on crime. The hope is that Londoners will have as much faith in him as foreigners do.

- Tara Hamilton-Miller was part of the press team at Conservative Campaign HQ from 2001 to 2006. She is now a political adviser.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in