A former Conservative candidate for London Mayor has said he believes the party has “actually given up on London”, buying into the idea that the capital has become an inherently Labour stronghold and allowing fear to take root that the government’s talk of “levelling up” the UK is to be at London’s expense.
Writing in Property Week, Steve Norris, who ran for City Hall in 2000 and 2004, finishing second to Ken Livingstone on both occasions, also says Sadiq Khan looks “almost certain of re-election in May” and that it is “perfectly obvious” the current Conservative candidate, Shaun Bailey, “has no cut-through with voters”.
Norris, who was a transport minister in the government of John Major and responsible in that role for London Underground’s Jubilee Line extension, urges the Tories to “start taking London seriously again”, arguing that as “Brexit recedes as an issue” the party should regard a number of the capital’s boroughs as “natural Tory territory”.
Now chairman of Soho Estates and Future-Built, he names Croydon, Enfield, Harrow, all currently Labour-run, as councils the Conservatives should be able to win having controlled them in the past, and says Havering, which has a Tory leader but is under no overall control, “ought to be nailed-on Tory”. The next borough elections are due to take place next spring.
Norris contrasts Conservative general election successes in the north of England in December 2019, when they won constituencies that had been Labour strongholds for decades, with their lack of progress in the capital. He argues that part of the reason was that Labour had taken voters in those northern seats for granted and often patronised them, suggesting that a more positive Tory approach in London should also pay off.
He is critical of Sadiq Khan, who he describes as “on any objective analysis by far the worst of the three mayors London has had so far,” but concludes that Bailey, though “a decent, hard working chap who is enormously likeable” lacks experience in government or business and by those measures cannot compete with “class act” Khan, an ex-minister and ex-MP.
All five mayoral opinion polls conducted last year gave Khan leads of at least 20 points over Bailey, even though the Tory’s rating showed some improvement. In November, Roger Evans, the former long-serving Tory London Assembly Member and statutory deputy to Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor, said Bailey’s campaign lacked a “coherent, inclusive vision” for London’s future and needed to be more prepared to take the Conservative national government to task.
The Bailey campaign’s tactics have received criticism for using websites and leaflets that barely disclose they are election material and have included false claims about Transport for London’s finances and Khan’s Council Tax policies.
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