Rory Stewart quits race to become Mayor of London after coronavirus made campaigning ‘impossible’
Rory Stewart quit as an MP in October to run for London mayor (PA)
Former Tory minister Rory Stewart has pulled out of the London mayoral race, citing the “considerable challenges” of running his campaign for another year during the coronavirus pandemic.
His announcement, on the eve of what would have been polling day, comes after the election was postponed until 2021 due to the outbreak.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, the ex-international development secretary said it had been an “agonising decision” to give up his “dream job”.
But he said his position as an independent in the race meant that he could not compete with the Labour and Conservative election “machines” over the next year.
“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 told the Standard.
“But you can’t beat these huge machines if you’re pushed into a nearly two-year campaign.”
Mr Stewart, who last year ran against Boris Johnson as Tory leader, quit as an MP in October to run in the mayoral contest in the capital.
The pro-Remain MP had the Conservative whip withdrawn in 2019 for voting against the Government on key Brexit legislation.
He was regarded as an outside hope in the mayoral race, with the most recent polling from Queen Mary University of London putting him in third place on 13%, behind current mayor Sadiq Khan and Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey.
Mr Stewart’s campaign attracted attention for its ‘Come Kip Wit Me’ initiative, in which he offered to sleep on Londoner’s floors to understand their issues.
Reflecting on his decision, he said: “We were on our way to a great battle this time round, I thought. One of the team just said: ‘It’s like one of those drag races – we built our car but we never really got to race it properly.’"
He also added that it would have been “dishonest” to delay the decision until after lockdown, claiming it would have been unfair on his supporters and donors.
“A lot of our donations were very small donations. I can’t let people continue to donate on false pretences,” he continued.
Reacting to the news that Mr Stewart had dropped out of the race, Tory candidate Shaun Bailey said: “Rory made a valuable and refreshing contribution to the race for City Hall.
“Like me, he believes London needs new leadership. Rory brought some interesting ideas to the table and his unique campaigning style was a real breath of fresh air. I wish him all the best for the next chapter.”