Don’t tell me… It’s him off the telly


What proportion of people in Britain can correctly identify a picture of the Prime Minister? Yes, you at the back – correct. 94%. This is as close to a unanimous response as you get in political research, but still means that more than one in twenty of our fellow countrymen and women could in theory bump into David Cameron and not be at all sure who he was. (This ought to be a salutary thought for those in the political world who imagine that the rest of the electorate follow events in Westminster as closely as they do.)

Who, then, is Britain’s second most recognised politician? Not the Leader of the Opposition. Though 89% in my latest online poll said they recognised Ed Miliband, only just over three quarters then wrote in the correct name; most of the discrepancy is accounted for by those who confused him with his brother.

Nor is it the Deputy Prime Minister. Seeing his photo, four fifths said they knew who he was, but only 72% identified Nick Clegg correctly. He was most often mistaken for George Osborne (though some thought he was Peter Jones from Dragons’ Den). The Chancellor, meanwhile, was recognised by three quarters of those polled, but only named correctly by 62%; he was most often confused with Ed Miliband, believe it or not, and sometimes – though not all that often, if I am honest – with Tom Hanks.

William Hague achieved high initial recognition of 82%, but fewer than two thirds put the right name to the face; Iain Duncan Smith was the name most often put to it instead. (Ross Kemp was another.) More than half of respondents correctly named Theresa May, but most of those who confused her with someone else thought she was Harriet Harman.

Perhaps surprisingly for those of us involved in politics, only just over a third said they recognised Michael Gove, and only 29% named him correctly. The fact that he was most often confused with Nigel Farage may or may not be significant. Philip Hammond, recognised by 23% but correctly named by only 10%, was most often mistaken for Jeremy Hunt, who was in turn most often mistaken for Seb Coe.

As you may by now have guessed, the second most familiar politician in the country is Boris Johnson. 94% said they recognised his picture, and 91% put the correct name to it. He is as well known as the Foreign Secretary, the Health Secretary and the Defence Secretary put together, or as the Chancellor and Education Secretary combined.

The political implications of Boris’s ubiquity are another matter. I have looked into these too – and there will be more to follow when my research on the subject is published later this week. Why not sign up for news alerts to make sure you’re the first to know.