EXCL Tory activists risk expulsion as they vow to back Rory Stewart's London Mayor bid
Tory activists have vowed to back Rory Stewart's London mayoral bid, putting them at risk of expulsion from the party.
A group of frustrated London Conservative members have dared party bosses to kick them out the party after they pledged to back the former Tory leadership hopeful's campaign to replace Sadiq Khan in May next year.
It comes after the ex-minister announced his intention to "fight back" against Brexit and "extremism" in politics by standing as an independent candidate, putting him at odds with Conservative hopeful Shaun Bailey.
Speaking on Friday, Mr Stewart revealed he had resigned from the "increasingly aggressive" party as he set out his plans to step down as an MP at the next election to focus on the campaign.
But any activist found to be supporting Mr Stewart is likely to fall foul of the party's constitution which warns that "membership of the Conservative Party is not compatible with membership of or association with any other registered party".
In April, the party was forced to issue a threat to activists who had voiced their support for the Brexit Party ahead of the European Parliamentary elections.
In a leaked email to activists, they said members were expected to "fully support the party in all elections", warning the Conservative board would "not hesitate to enforce these rules".
But speaking to PoliticsHome, a number of London-based Tory members expressed their frustration with Mr Bailey's campaign as they signalled their intention to shift their support.
"I'm not going to resign, but if the armchair generals in Matthew Parker Street [CCHQ's London address] want to expel me then that is fine," one north London activist said.
"It'll be nice to do a bit of campaigning in London without the CCHQ jackboot hanging over us."
Meanwhile, another called for an "amnesty" for members who had campaigned alongside Mr Stewart in the leadership contest.
"Only a few months ago I campaigned for him to be leader, and now they are going to kick me out if I support him," they said.
"It's spiteful, and if they take that attitude it could be the death knell for the London Tories. There really should be an amnesty of sorts."
Others expressed frustration at the Tory campaign for failing to breakthrough, describing Mr Bailey as a "p*ss poor" candidate.
"I've just signed up to Rory's website but I am not going to quit the Tories," they said. "He [Shaun Bailey] is such a p*ss poor candidate. I've been to two of his events... and both times I came away thinking he had no real solutions."
Speaking after Mr Stewart's shock announcement, Mr Bailey said he "welcomed any candidates decision to stand and hold Mr Khan to account over his woeful record in London".
The former youth worker, whose campaign has focused on Mr Khan's efforts to tackle violent crime, added: "We have all suffered too long under a mayor with no plans, no idea for London and entirely focused on moving back to Westminster to take over the leadership of the Labour Party.
"London faces real challenges and that's why I will continue to focus on serious violent crime and how we're going to get a grip on the violence on our streets."
But the Tory hopeful may now face an uphill battle to gain momentum in the final six months of the campaign if support continues to haemorrhage to Mr Stewart's camp.
"I keep getting emails asking me to come out and campaign for Shaun," another activist said. "My association have done a few events with him but the attendance is really low."
"I was intending to (begrudgingly) campaign as polling day approached, but with Rory running I am not going to bother.
"I will definitely vote for Rory."
Meanwhile, another said they had already approached Mr Stewart's team about joining the campaign, adding: "I'm going to speak to my Association Chair about [resigning from the party]. Conference was pretty much the final straw for me, but now he is running it has made up my mind. I won't be the only one."
A spokesperson for Mr Stewart's campaign said they would "welcome all support".
The Conservative Party have been approached for comment.