Rory Stewart May Have Just Lost The Conservatives the London Mayoral Election Before It’s Started
Ex International Development Secretary Rory Stewart MP has made not one, but two major announcements today. Both of which will come as a blow to the Conservative Party. First he told his local constituents that, as well as resigning from the Conservative and Unionist Party, he would no longer be standing as a Member of Parliament at the next General Election. Then he dropped a bombshell that will have sent shockwaves through 10 Downing Street. He announced he’s running as an independent candidate for London Mayor.
R ory Stewart is seen as a popular politician in Westminster. Only a few months ago, he was running to be the next Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister.
Seen as a moderate who was unlikely to win, he embarked on a campaign titled; #RoryWalks. He started a social media campaign that caught on very quickly capturing the public’s imagination. He did something that very few Tories ever do; go out on the streets and talk to the public.
It proved popular, and was praised by politicians on all sides for being respectful and inclusive. However, some saw it as Stewart attempting to model himself as “one of us” so as to distance himself from his voting record.
While he may have been proposing bold policies on social care, he was constantly reminded that his past voting record in backing austerity, showed he was simply another “party man”.
In the leadership debates his rivals jumped on his Brexit plan. While Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were more than happy to say they’d allow the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU) on October 31st, Stewart pledged to never let that happen as can been seen from his appearance on Sky News below.
Ultimately he ended up coming fifth in the leadership election with Boris Johnson eventually seeing off then foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a vote of Conservative Party members.
A Man Shrouded in Mystery
T hroughout the leadership race more and more details came out about what Stewart had done prior to becoming a Member of Parliament.
After attending Eton, during which time he tuted Princes Harry and William, he went on to graduate from the prestigious Oxford University. Like his father, he joined the UK’s Foreign Office as a Diplomat and was sent to Indonesia. Following this posting he went to Montenegro following the the Kosovo War.
He supported the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and that year say him become the Deputy Governor of the Iraqi region of Maysan. Unlike his American counterparts he didn’t hide inside a compound, but instead went out to talk to locals.
With postings like these it is alleged that he was in fact a Mi6 Officer, something the MP himself denies.
Not content with the postings of the UK Diplomatic Service, Stewart embarked on a walk across war-torn Afghanistan, which he wrote a book on, and visited Iran several times walking across the vast Persian country on his own. These trips have only added speculation to the claim of him being a British Spy.
Kicked Out for Defiance
O n September 3rd 2019, Stewart and 20 other Tory MPs backed an opposition motion in Parliament to take control of the order paper. This move was launched so that MPs opposed a a no-deal Brexit to create a new law effectively stopping the Prime Minister taking the UK out of the EU without a deal. Conservative MPs had been warned that should they vote against the government, they would lose the “whip”.
When you hear about “the whip,” people tend to be referring to a document which is sent to MPs and peers from the whips (MPs) and highlights upcoming parliamentary business. It contains official instruction from leaders about how to vote on legislation, such as whether they should vote for or against a bill or an amendment. MPs of each Party usually vote “with the whip” in Parliament.
Losing the whip is considered very serious. It effectively means that an MP or Peer in the House of Lords, are expelled from their party because they have not followed strict instruction from the leadership.
As expected Stewart and the 20 other Tory MPs did have the whip withdrawn for refusing to back the government. Ironically Rory Stewart received the news via text as he was receiving GQ’s “Politician of The Year” award.
Stewart remained defiant and pledged to continue serving his constituents as an Independent MP.
Stewart Announces End of Time as MP
T oday, October 4th, Rory Stewart made the not totally unexpected announcement that he would not be standing as an MP at the next General election. He cites that as he is barred from standing as a Conservative candidate, he wouldn’t want to damage his Tory friends chances.
Writing in The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, Mr Stewart said:
“As you will be aware, I am no longer allowed to run as Conservative MP in Penrith and The Border.
“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.
“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.”
Robert Craig, president of the Penrith and The Border Conservative Association, said Mr Stewart would “possibly” not have made the decision if he still had the Tory whip.
“I suppose had that changed… it seems to have become clear that, that wasn’t going to change and he has other ambitions.”
Mr Craig praised Mr Stewart as an “inspirational” MP and criticised Mr Johnson for taking the party in an “extreme” direction.
Mayoral Bid Launched
J ust over an hour after the news had broken that Mr Stewart had resigned as a Conservative, the independent MP announced that rather than leaving politics, he was going to run as an independent candidate in the 2020 London Mayoral Election.
He released an open letter in the Evening Standard to outline to Londoners why he is standing. In the letter he says;
“ I would like your vote so that we can transform this great capital — the most intricate, diverse and astonishing city on the planet, the financial centre of the world, and the cradle of our democracy — together.”
He went on to cite his experience of managing big projects abroad;
“ It didn’t matter whether I was clearing 30,000 truck-loads of garbage out of the old city of Kabul, or whether I was introducing the plastic bag tax or reducing violence in an East London prison — I learned how to understand the problem clearly, grasp the solution, and then have the energy and determination to drive it through.”
A Blow For The Conservative Candidate
This news will come as a massive blow to the Conservative Candidate for London Mayor; Shaun Bailey.
The Tories have invested heavily in Bailey’s campaign as they are keen to regain control of City Hall from Labour’s Sadiq Khan.
“What London really needs is a full time mayor, someone focused on making the city a safer place to live. Whose ambition is not to improve their own public image, but to lift up millions of people in London and show them that they have another choice.”
The Tory hopeful has already been seen a divisive after a 2005 pamphlet he authored emerged in which he attacked Muslims and Hindus. Bailey complained about the cultural practices being taught in UK schools appering to blame it on immigrants. He said;
“You bring your children to school and they learn far more about Diwali than Christmas. I speak to the people who are from Brent and they’ve been having Muslim and Hindi days off. What it does is rob Britain of its community. Without our community, we slip into a crime-riddled cesspool,”
Accusations of Islamophobia are the last thing Conservative Party HQ (CCHQ) needed. In the 2016 Mayor election, Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith was widely condemned for running an Islamophobic campaign against Labour’s Sadiq Khan.
Bailey hit back in the only way he knows; by attacking Labour. His spokeswoman told The Guardian at the time;
“Shaun has made it his life’s work to help those from migrant and disadvantaged communities, and to suggest otherwise is ludicrous.
“As someone who has received racist abuse from the Labour party, who, let’s not forget, branded the community worker a ‘token ghetto boy’, this is a little rich.”
With Rory Stewart now throwing his hat into the ring, many commentators have already signalled that is has killed off any chance Shaun Bailey had of becoming Mayor of London. They are split on whether Stewart can actually win, or rather that he will take votes away from the Conservatives and hand Sadiq Khan another win.
The Liberal Democrats may also be facing problems as Stewart’s centrist policies are have been widely praised by some Lib Dem supporters.
While there may be uncertainty on whether Rory Stewart can actually win the election next spring, there appears to be absolutely none when it comes to writing off Shaun Bailey’s chances.
Popular On All Sides
R ory Stewart is popular across all the parties. He could see support from Centre right Labour voters, all the way to those on the left of the Conservative Party.
LBC presenter James O’Brien read out a very interesting message from a listener this morning. It said;
“Perhaps Rory Stewart is piggybacking the London Mayoral job like Boris Johnson did, with a view to another bid at becoming Prime Minister once the current mess has calmed down.”
O’Brien remarked that Stewart might not even need to win, rather just running a strong campaign might increases his chances.
Whatever the reasons, Boris Johnson and his supporters may well be regretting expelling the popular MP from Penrith, After all, it may have just cost them what they consider as one of the “Jewels In The Crown” of politics.