WATCH: Ex-Tory minister Rory Stewart announces plan to run as independent candidate for London Mayor
Former Tory Cabinet minister Rory Stewart has announced his plan to quit as an MP and run as an independent candidate for London Mayor.
The ex-International Development Secretary, who ran for the Conservative leadership in the summer, said he was standing in May's mayoral election in order to "fight back" against the dangers of Brexit and the "kind of extremism that is taking over the country".
The announcement comes just hours after he revealed his intention to resign from the Party and step down as the member for Penrith and The Border, where he has served for ten years.
Announcing his bid in a video on Twitter, the former International Development Secretary said: "I'm standing in the middle of the greatest city on earth.
"I've got the wonderous St Paul's Catherdral behind me in this slightly dodgy selfie and it is a city not just with so much potential but, of course, a city that is now in real danger.
"Danger from Brexit, from technological change but I think, above all, from what's happened in British politics, to the kind of extremism that is taking over our country.
He added: "This was the most moderate country on Earth. One of the most settled place on earth, the place that treated people with civility and dignity.
"And the reason that I'm going to be running in May to be Mayor for London is that I believe the way to fight back is through this great city, through the traditions of compromise, through the energy and and diversity of this city and to make it a better place, to make sure that the very air we breath is clean and that we feel safe in our houses, that we have the right kind of houses, that we challenge division."
The move will pit him against the current mayor, Labour's Mayor Sadiq Khan, as well as Conservative hopeful Shaun Bailey and Liberal Democrat Siobhan Benita.
Writing in the Evening Stardard, Mr Stewart said his decision was "crystallised" when he had the party whip removed alongside 20 other Brexit rebels last month, calling it a "painful journey".
"I've been proud to be a member of the Conservative Party." he explained. "There are many values I share with it. I parted company largely over Brexit and the tone of the party, which has become increasingly aggressive."
He added: "Our leaders have become so bad at listening to the people... Instead, the have retreated to a madhouse of mutual insults in the Gothic shouting chamber of Westminster, putting one group against another - rich against poor, London against the rest, Brexit against Remain - and all the time getting further and further away from compromise, practical solutions, and the centre ground. And this is why I've decided to stand, not for a party but as an independent."
Mr Stewart had been expected to run as an Independent candidate in his current constituency, but explaining his decision to step down as an MP he told The Cumberland and Westmoreland Herald: "Because I have loved the constituency so much, I had considered standing as an Independent; but I have decided that I wouldn’t want to run against those Conservative members who have been such wonderful colleagues over the last ten years."
"I am hugely grateful to all the members of my local party who have written in support, and to the Chair and President of my local party, who have resigned from the Conservative Party in support of my position," he added.
"But it should be no secret that there are also local party members who would rather I did not run again. I don’t want to test loyalties, destroy old friendships or push any of these issues any further. There is enough toxic division in British politics without importing it into Cumbria!"