Our political editor WALTER CRONXITE on how the Conservatives are beginning to panic over their gormless candidate for London Mayor
Reports emerged overnight that the Tories are giving serious consideration to dumping their candidate for London Mayor, Shaun Bailey.
As if to demonstrate how tin-eared the Conservative Party can be – you know, actively considering dumping a black man as candidate for one of the most powerful positions in the country, right in the middle of global Black Lives Matter demonstrations – Tories in the capital have only now begun to realise quite how hopeless Bailey, a former aide to Boris Johnson, really is.
Bailey’s misfiring Mayoral campaign ought to have finished more than a month ago, and would surely have ended in a resounding defeat to Labour’s Sadiq Khan. But coronavirus saw all elections postponed, and now Tory Party chiefs are considering whether to use the pause in process to switch to a more competent candidate. In fact, any other candidate.
Giving substance to the whispers surrounding Bailey’s failing campaign, Greg Hands, the Chelsea and Fulham MP who is chairing the Tories’ London Mayoral campaign, was forced to issue a tweet of support yesterday.
Bailey, Hands wrote, “is our superb Conservative candidate for London Mayor. Shaun won selection in an open and contested Conservative ballot in 2018. My Chelsea and Fulham activists, members and donors are united in their support. Bring on next May to defeat Khan!”
A case of the MP doth protest too much?
The Financial Times certainly seems to think so, as they are reporting that Assembly Member Bailey “has lost the support of senior party officials and donors, with some keen to see him replaced by a prominent name such as former chancellor Sajid Javid”.
And they state, “Several senior Conservative party figures have now told the Financial Times they would like to see an alternative candidate run.”
And despite the inevitable claims of “fake news” from Bailey fan-boy, Neil “Father Jack” Garratt, the Tory Assembly candidate for Croydon and Sutton, Bailey’s own campaign team actually confirmed the FT’s story, saying that it was “no secret” that “a very small number of people around the [Tory] party would have preferred someone more familiar”.
A Bailey campaign spokesperson was quoted as saying, “Nobody in the Conservative Party is stupid enough to try to drop Shaun just when he has been landing blows on Sadiq Khan over his failures over TfL and public safety, and when our capital has an opportunity to elect its first black Mayor at a time when bringing people together has never been more important.”
Which is just the kind of pouring-oil-on-the-flames fire fighting performance that has typified Bailey’s campaign so far. “No one in the Conservative Party is stupid enough…”? Seriously?
According to the FT, Javid has already turned down the poisoned chalice of taking on Khan, with a late-starting campaign in a strongly Labour-supporting city.
“Senior party figures have been questioning Mr Bailey’s candidacy for some time, with one Tory close to Conservative party HQ saying: ‘It’s undoubtedly true that people think that Shaun could be doing better’,” the FT reports.
Even the withdrawal from the contest of former Conservative government minister Rory Stewart, who was running for Mayor as an independent, has failed to boost Bailey’s standings in the polls.
It was significant that in his nothing-to-see-here tweet yesterday, Hands should mention party donors because according to reports it is Tory Party donors who have been expressing the greatest concerns about Bailey’s competency, or lack of it.
“There is no way Shaun can beat Sadiq. He’s a nice guy but he’s barely broken 20 per cent in the polls. The year delay means we have the opportunity to reset the race,” the FT reports an unnamed donor as saying.
And money is a key issue when it comes to the Tories fighting a year-long campaign that they seem destined to lose.
The Conservatives have a weak financial position, according to the Financial Times, and they are considering making staff cuts at party headquarters, where there’s a growing feeling that they’d rather save jobs than Bailey’s floundering campaign.
“Shaun just doesn’t have it. At every donor meeting he is wheeled out but he just fails to connect. Being a politician doesn’t seem to come naturally to him,” was the view of another party donor quoted by the newspaper.
Bailey, 49, a former youth worker, was an adviser to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London and to David Cameron when he was Prime Minister. Handpicked by Cameron to fight target parliamentary seats, Bailey failed to get elected in the 2010 and 2017 general elections.
An official Conservative statement confirmed the party’s full support for Bailey. “He is the only candidate that can defeat Sadiq Khan next year.”
And “Father Ted” Garratt, after frothing at the mouth over news that is anything but fake, has given his wholehearted backing to his “friend”, Bailey.
Which is nice.
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