Conservatives have ‘given up on London,’ says former Tory mayoral candidate

Conservatives have ‘given up on London,’ says former Tory mayoral candidate

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. provides in-depth coverage of the UK capital’s politics, development and culture. It depends greatly on donations from readers. Give £5 a month or £50 a year and you will receive the On London Extra Thursday email, which rounds up London news, views and information from a wide range of sources, plus free offers and access to events. Click here to donate directly or contact for bank account details. Thanks.


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  1. ASLEF shrugged says:

    He claims Khan is “worst of the three mayors” but doesn’t explain why or how Boris was better.

    His suggestion that Justine Greening would have made a better candidate ignores the rather important fact that she turned it down in June 2018 (before she lost her seat). Anyone would have made a better candidate than Bailey who was the least experienced Tory on the GLA when he was elected in 2016 but no one wanted to be the next Zac Goldsmith.

    And if he thinks Havering is “nailed-on Tory” then he doesn’t understand Havering’s rather idiosyncratic political scene which might explain why the Rt. Hon. Member for Epping Forest (which is Essex despite being on the Central Line) lost two Mayoral elections

  2. Kyle Harrison says:

    I was watching the 1983 election (as you do) recently when the Tories were in poll position in London, as they were for years to come until 1997.

    London has become a younger city in the last 25 years, with an influx of graduates that often have more liberal views compared to non- university voters. This is still the case. At the same time, London on the surface may have looked (until Covid) successful but many people in London struggle financially due to the high cost of living even if on paper they earn more than other workers in the UK. Increasing numbers of renters. All these things point to a city moving leftwards. At the same time Labour have lost a lot of (often home owning) working class support outside of cities.

    However, I don’t think things will stay the same forever. For a start, if Labour do get back in, eventually this will feed into a reaction against them especially by some middle class voters that begrudge paying higher taxes etc… In 2005 the Tories did best in London when it came to winning seats away from Labour. Areas like Putney got sick of Labour by then.

    Also, London is a city that can change in its makeup rapidly, more than anywhere else in the UK. If Covid does result in fewer younger graduates moving to London, if it results in some younger professionals leaving the Capital. The proportion of older, less educated, home owning voters will increase in the electorate. And that is likely to make London shift rightwards. I don’t expect the Tories to get back to their heyday in the 1980s and 90s but I do think they will improve in coming years.

  3. Neil says:

    Mr Bailey’s plan for mandatory drug testing of Londoners shows how woefully out of touch he is with the electorate. Whoever came up with this manifesto pledge is a complete muppet.

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