the reactions of David Cameron and Andy Coulson sum up how much Tory candidate Boris Johnson's victory in 2008 meant to them
Well, this time, it means even more. The Conservative Party are currently trailing badly in the polls. They are lurching from one crisis to another. And, in between the staggeringly incompetent reforms to higher education and the jaw-dropping right-wing reforms to the NHS - of which voters where given no warning prior to the 2010 election - the Government are well on their way to alienating many of the key professions.
It is almost certain that the Conservative Party will get bruised at the local elections on 3 May. It is also likely that they will continue to suffer badly from the fall-out from Osborne's disastrous economic strategy, from the unravelling of Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms and from the aftershocks of years of Cameron's cosying up to the Murdoch empire now coming back to haunt the Party.
However, there is one chink of light, one symbolic contest, on which all Conservative hopes are pinned - on the contest for Mayor of London. This high-profile contest would give senior Tories enough of a victory to allow them to press on unhindered with their programme of government.
In policy terms, the two main candidates for Mayor are in fact fairly traditionally split between left and right, with Ken Livingstone focussed on housing, public transport, education (and in particularly the EMA) and energy bills; Boris, meanwhile, has a limited manifesto reflecting his right-wing small-government outlook, with his most noticeable policy being more public spending cuts (as if Osborne's strategy needs accelerating).
For these reasons, an awful lot rides on Tory Mayor Boris winning to protect Cameron, Osborne, Lansley and colleagues from further pain. Don't want to take my word for it? Then how about the press:
City AM: "Defeat for Boris 'would be lethal' for Cameron and Osborne"
Daily Mail: "A Boris victory is the only thing that can save the Tories now"
Evening Standard: "Conservative ministers desperately need a Johnson victory in London"
Guardian: "If the London Mayor wins again, it will be hailed as a triumph for the Conservative Party"
Political Betting: "The big hope for the Tories now is that Boris hangs on in London"
Telegraph: "If Boris loses it will become Cameron’s Black Friday... Johnson is the final bulwark between his party and a complete rout"
Daily Mail: "Boris is out to win, and he could just save Dave's bacon"
Guardian: "Johnson's London Plan is the vision of a complete and utter1 Conservative... Boris is a facilitator of Tory policies in housing, welfare, transport and crime that are worsening London's woes"