Rory Stewart, the former Tory leadership candidate who was expelled from the Conservatives at Westminster because of his implacable opposition to Boris Johnson’s stance on Brexit, has withdrawn from the London Mayoral campaign.
What do you mean, you didn’t know he was a candidate? What do you mean, “What London Mayoral campaign?”
The vote for the London Mayor and the London Assembly should have been taking place tomorrow, May 7.
But the elections were among the early casualties of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown of so many aspects of public life. Croydon residents greeted that news with some degree of relief since it meant that they would not be getting a knock on the door from the likes of Paul Scott or Mario Creatura for some time.
It also put paid to any remote chance Stewart might have had of being able to afford to run a reasonable Mayoral campaign as an independent. Following the loss of his parliamentary seat, Stewart had looked to somehow raise his political profile in a brief campaigning blitz around the capital, effectively mugging the official Tory candidate, the lamentable Shaun Bailey.
As Inside Croydon reported in January when Stewart brought his somewhat policy-lite roadshow to south London, “After almost a decade representing the people of Penrith and the Borders – about as far from London as you can get and still be in England – the Hong Kong-born Old Etonian, who once served in an elite Scottish regiment before going to Oxford University and working overseas for the Foreign Office, announced he wanted to be Mayor of London. Clearly, if Stewart has a ‘passion for London’, he has managed to keep it very well hidden.”
Stewart’s naivety, or ignorance, about London politics saw him take the stage in Croydon with a senior figure from SPACNation, the controversial “church of bling” which has been the centre of wide-ranging allegations of fraud and abuse, and remains subject to charity and police investigations.
Once the London elections were postponed (probably to be held in May 2021), Stewart’s low-budget strategy, such as it was, was busted. There’s only so many campaign selfies featuring yourself and just one other person even the most thick-skinned politician can take.
Stewart said he could not ask his volunteer campaigners to keep going for another 12 months as he sought to challenge Labour’s Sadiq Khan for the top job in the capital.
Today, Stewart admitted that he did not have the resources to run a year-long campaign. “The point about an independent campaign is it needs to be a sort of quite quick insurgency where you really build excitement over a few months,” he said.
“But you can’t beat these huge machines if you’re pushed into a nearly two-year campaign.”
According to the polls, which have Khan way out in front, Stewart was in third place, ahead of the LibDems and Greens, who are probably relieved at today’s development.
Though neither will be as relieved as Bailey, who said that Stewart “brought some interesting ideas to the table”, which is more than could be said of his own lacklustre campaign.
Stewart said: “It’s been a very difficult decision. It’s a job I really, really dreamed of. I don’t think I will ever find another role in the world which would be as exciting or satisfying as that. It would have been a great, great privilege. There is no city like it in the world.
“If I had been lucky enough to be elected, I would much rather have done [this] than being Prime Minister.”
Stewart has stated he will not be rejoining the Conservatives.
- Read about the day that Rory Stewart brought his campaign to Croydon: Ex-Tory minister has no policies, but says he’ll listen if Mayor
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