General election 2019: Are Johnson and Corbyn the political odd couple?

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

  • Published
Boris Johnson and Jeremy CorbynImage source, EPA/ PA

The UK's two main political parties are further apart in terms of policy than they have been for aeons.

Labour and the Conservatives have entirely different priorities, and completely contrasting solutions for the country's problems, particularly on how to resolve the political deadlock and frustration of Brexit.

This will not be an election where even the most fed up voter could credibly make the charge "they're all the same".

But here's something strange, even though it would make them and their supporters splutter and rage, they actually have rather a lot in common.

But hold on, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn do seem to be bound together by some similar traits - they are the political odd couple of 2019.

They've both been rebels in their own party, unwilling to toe the line, both with a habit of saying what they think.

That sounds pretty straightforward but, trust me, it's not always that common in politics.

And part of that habit of being direct has included very public criticisms of their party bosses before they made it to that perch themselves.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The Labour leader is adored by his supporters

Whether that was Mr Corbyn's campaigning against the Iraq War and much of Tony Blair's government, or Boris Johnson's years of provoking David Cameron when he was king across the water in London's City Hall, long before he was lurking behind Theresa May's shoulder.

Both men have also been written off by their Westminster colleagues on plenty of occasions.

The long guerrilla war between Jeremy Corbyn and his backbenchers has been one of the central features of his time in the job, but he has survived in the role for four and a half years despite multiple moments when it was predicted he would be off.

Boris Johnson too was judged, not that long ago, by many of his Westminster colleagues to be a busted flush.

But he built a campaign machine in the Commons that vaulted him into Number 10.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The Conservative leader is also a big hit with his party faithful

The two party leaders also share the kind of adulation from activists that is deeply rare in politics.

In the room in south London where Mr Corbyn launched his campaign this morning you could almost touch and feel the personal devotion to him that some Labour members feel.

It's the same feeling that you sense when the prime minister is in front of a crowd of Conservatives.

That does not mean for a second that either of them can translate that to the wider public.

People who take part in politics in a big way are very much in the minority in this country.

You need only take a look at the men's personal ratings to see that.

And it is worth looking taking a look at how the polls are moving here, with excellent analysis from my fantastic colleague Peter Barnes who'll be tracking it all for the next few weeks.

But again, unlike many of their MP colleagues, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are both happy campaigners who simply soak up the attention and affection of their home crowd.

And lastly, it looks like both men are willing to run pretty divisive campaigns.

At Mr Corbyn's launch I lost count of the number of times that he asked his audience from the stage: "Whose side are you on?"

And I've already lost track of the number of times I've heard Mr Johnson present this election as contest between "the people" (whoever they really are) and Parliament.

They are both following a totally different grain to the more managerial politics we had become used.

Last, in this crazily volatile climate neither Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn can be sure at all where they will end up.

Two extremely different politicians, with more in common than they might care to admit.