London mayoral election 2016: Is Boris Johnson helping Zac Goldsmith win support over rival Sadiq Khan?

James Nickerson
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Campiaigning For London Mayor With Boris Johnson And Zac Goldsmith
Will there be a Boris effect? (Source: Getty)

"We’ve done incredibly well under Boris." "London’s the most important city in the world and I think Boris Johnson can take credit for that." "Boris has shown how to bang the drum across the world."

Love him or loathe him, it’s hard to say Boris Johnson hasn’t had an impact. Yet, the above quotes are all from one man: Zac Goldsmith, currently on the campaign trail to replace him at City Hall.

One would safely presume Goldsmith sees Johnson as an asset, helping him build support.

True enough, Johnson won London, typically considered a Labour city, twice - and Goldsmith, currently lagging in the polls, may need to pull something out of the bag. Could Boris help?

"He's definitely an asset," says Professor Tony Travers, chair of Centre for Cities.

[Johnson] wasn't popular because he was a Tory doing Tory things. He was popular because he was good old Boris; floppy hair on a zip wire

"Zac's campaign film has a message: London is booming, Boris Johnson, a Conservative mayor, brought this about, and I will keep up the good work.

"There's no question that Johnson is - in London especially - an incredibly effective vote winning politician who can reach out beyond the Conservative party, which very few Conservatives can. Any Conservative candidate would sensibly want to bask in some that electoral warmth."

Read more: The best bits of the one-on-one between Goldsmith and Khan

Travers isn't alone. For Anthony Wells, director of political and social research at YouGov, it's clear why Goldsmith has been keen to appear alongside Johnson.

"Boris has stardust," says Wells.

Yes, Boris is an asset in terms of pick up, Wells explains. "If you have Boris at an event people turn up and cover it."

But that stardust won't necessarily rub off on Goldsmith. "[Johnson] wasn't popular because he was a Tory doing Tory things. He was popular because he was good old Boris; floppy hair on a zipwire."

"What was popular was the Boris Johnson brand, and that's not the kind of thing that can passed on to a successor unless they are a very similar personality and Zac Goldsmith clearly isn't."

If you have Boris at an event people turn up and cover it.

Still, Johnson appears to have had some positive impact on Goldsmith's campaign, with bookmakers factoring him into their odds on who will win. Betway has said Goldsmith is a "shade shorter" due to Johnson's active support.

But the bookie reckons Johnson could yet be kingmaker, as his support may encourage somewhat unenthusiastic Tory voters in the outer London boroughs to turnout on polling day.

Read more: Who are the mayoral candidates running for City Hall?

With just a third of voters expected to actually cast a ballot on 5 May, a few thousand extra votes could swing it for the Richmond Park MP, Betway suggests. Although it also warns Goldsmith should be careful he's not overshadowed by "the boisterous Boris".

However, Travers doesn't think this will harm Goldsmith. He suggests: "Zac and Sadiq are [both] decently mainstream, middle of the road, MPs. But they aren't celebrities in the way Boris and indeed Ken Livingstone was. The elixir of his magic is thought to be a good thing. Clearly the Conservative party think that".

Still, with Labour expanding its vote share in London, the Conservatives are facing an uphill battle - with or without the help of Boris.

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