The next election for London Mayor is still two years away, but campaigns are already starting to grind into gear. As expected, incumbent Sadiq Khan has declared that he intends to run for a second term, and this week was the Conservative Party deadline for seeking the nomination. From there, the Tories will privately choose the long list and present the shortlist to the capital’s party members over the summer. The candidate will then be unveiled at the party conference in October.
Although a great deal about the process is covert, what is clear is that there is a distinct lack of household names on the list. Over the last few weeks, several top Tories who had been mooted as potential candidates publicly withdrew from consideration, including Putney MP and former Education Secretary Justine Greening, Conservative deputy chairman James Cleverly, and MEP for London Syed Kamall. Sadiq Khan’s popularity remains healthy, with 52 percent thinking he is doing well as Mayor, and the Conservative Party are still suffering in London from the unsuccessful campaign by Zac Goldsmith in 2016, and Brexit which most Londoners oppose.
Taking on Khan then is no easy task, and it will be made much harder by the relatively low profile of the talent the Tories have to choose a candidate from. One name who is running is Andrew Rosindell MP who will pitch himself as an outer-London man, being a pro-Brexit right winger who has been accused of ‘dog-whistle racism’ in the past. His biggest rival would be appear to be Shaun Bailey, a London Assembly Member and former Downing Street adviser. Having lived for years in the shadow of Grenfell, Bailey has an unconventional back-story for a Tory, and his message will be one that seeks to reach out to all of London, not just the Tory core vote.
The lack of options really reflects the Conservatives lack of optimism for this election. From the candidates declared so far, Bailey would appear to be the strongest option. But to be beat Sadiq, you have to feel they haven’t found their game-changing option yet.