Rory Stewart today abandoned his candidacy for mayor of London, saying it was impossible to continue after elections were delayed a year by the coronavirus crisis.
The former Conservative minister said it was a “scary decision” to resign, but said he could not ask his army of unpaid volunteers to continue for another year.
He made his announcement today – on the eve of what should have been election day – in an exclusive article for the Evening Standard.
He said he gave up hope of finding his “dream job” because of the difficulties encountered by independent candidates against the Labor and Conservative “machines”, with hundreds of canvassers and larger budgets for election tracts and The advertisement.
“The point about an independent campaign is that it has to be some kind of fairly rapid insurgency where you get really excited in a few months,” he said. “But you can’t beat these huge machines if you are pushed into a campaign of almost two years. “
His withdrawal paves the way for the re-election of Sadiq Khan from Labor for a second term.
The most recent poll, from Queen Mary’s University in London in March, had seen Mr. Stewart advance to third place, with 13%, behind Mr. Khan and the conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, although he did not launched its campaign only last October.
Mr. Stewart was considered a “joker” and polls have indicated that he would be more of a threat than Mr. Bailey to Mr. Khan if he made it to the second round, even though Mr. Khan was still expected to win.
The government announced in March that the mayor’s election and other local elections in England will be delayed until May next year as the country prepares to enter the lockout.
Mr. Stewart, 47, a former Conservative leadership candidate, had left the Conservative Party and ran as an independent for city hall.
Speaking to Standard last night, he said that a key factor in ending his campaign had been the need to be honest with donors. His campaign had attracted the financial support of many Londoners making small donations.
Mr. Stewart said, “We were about to fight a big battle this time, I thought. One of the team members just said, “It’s like one of these drag races – we built our car, but we never really got to drive it properly.”
“It was a very difficult decision. It’s a job I really, really dreamed of. I don’t think I will ever find another role in the world that would be as exciting or satisfying as that. It would have been a great privilege. There is no city like this in the world.
“If I had been lucky enough to be elected, I would have preferred to do so [this] than being Prime Minister. “
Stewart had promised to resign if he failed to reduce crime as mayor, and a Come Kip With Me initiative to sleep on Londoners’ floors to understand their problems drew national publicity.
When asked why he hadn’t delayed his decision until the lockout ended and life started to return to normal, Mr. Stewart said, “I think it would have been dishonest. It took me a few weeks to straighten my head. Yes, I could have left things open and I could have teased people a little, but I think it would have been unfair to myself or my supporters.
“Many of our donations were very small donations. I cannot let people continue to donate under false pretenses. “
He said he plans to write a book on politics and hopes to stay in public life. But he said he would not join the Conservative party. He refused to approve any other mayoral candidate.
He said, “I would like to stay in some form of public service … so maybe some charities or universities and see if there will be another opportunity in the future to contribute in some way. other. It didn’t seem fair or realistic to [continue]. “
In today’s Standard, Stewart said he had hoped to tackle the gun crime epidemic and the housing crisis and wanted to cut “shameful” levels of sleep by half. brutal.
He praised the “extraordinary passion” of his supporters, saying: “It is entirely thanks to these volunteers that we have ended with the largest campaign independent of recent British politics.
“But the Coronavirus has struck. Perhaps because I had dealt with Ebola as Secretary of State, I was quicker than some to see the coronavirus problem. I was the first to call for a halt to the campaign and the very elections in which I had spent nine months of my life.
“But unfortunately, it marked the end of our dreams for London. Our independent campaign work could function as an insurgency, supported by the free work of volunteers, for nine months. But not more than 21 months. In such a gruesome, expensive and protracted campaign, the big party machines have the overwhelming advantage.
“I couldn’t put our volunteers through another 12 months of campaigning in an environment completely changed by the coronavirus and with the odds now so strongly against us.”
Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey said, “Rory has made a valuable and refreshing contribution to the mayoral race.
“Like me, he thinks London needs new leadership. Rory brought some interesting ideas to the table and his unique campaign style was a breath of fresh air.
“I wish him all the best for the next chapter. “