Former Conservative Party leadership candidate Rory Stewart has pledged to lead London through “one of the most challenging times in its history” after leaving the Tories and announcing he will run as an Independent candidate in next year’s London Mayor election campaign.
In an open letter published by the Evening Standard, Stewart, who is MP for the Cumbrian constituency Penrith & The Border, said he will be seeking to combat Britain’s “ever more divisive politics”, beginning by “spending the coming weeks walking around London” to listen and learn about the city.
In a video selfie he described the capital as being in “real danger” from Brexit and technological change and “above all, from what’s happened in British politics, the kind of extremism that is taking over our country”. He said that “through this great city” there could be a fight back, “through the traditions of compromise” by “making change local” and that “the way we do it is not through division, but through love”.
Stewart’s declaration is being seen as bad news for Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, who has been struggling to make an impression in his campaign to oust Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is seeking a second term at City Hall. Bailey told the BBC he welcomes “any candidate’s decision to stand and hold Mr Khan to account over his woeful record in London.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Siobhan Benita, who is hoping to win support from liberal, Remain-voting Londoners who normally vote Conservative, has tweeted that “the mayoral campaign doesn’t need two Brexiters” – a reference to Stewart’s backing for Theresa May’s Brexit deal, although Stewart voted to Remain in the 2016 referendum.
Green Party candidate Siân Berry, in an apparent reference to Stewart, criticised “people in politics who find themselves at a bit of a loose end” regarding the London mayoralty as “just some random title they can go for on a whim”.
The Labour Group of the London Assembly, the elected body that scrutinises London Mayors, has also drawn attention to Stewart’s record in parliament on Brexit along with other issues, including spending cuts and university tuition fees. Mayor Khan has yet to comment.
Bookmakers have installed Stewart as second favourite to win the mayoral race, behind Khan but ahead of Bailey and Benita. Ken Livingstone became London’s first Mayor running as an Independent having left the Labour party, though unlike Stewart he had a long record as a leading London politician.
OnLondon.co.uk is dedicated to providing fair, thorough and resolutely anti-populist coverage of London’s politics, development and culture. It depends on donations from readers and would like to pay its freelance contributors better. Can you spare £5 a month? Follow this link to donate. Thank you.