London has been, for a while now, crying out for a centrist voice. An individual who doesn’t give in to the partisan, tribal politics that we see today, but instead seeks to unite the political divide and adopt a new type and style of administration that would be needed to mend the societal cracks.
When Rory Stewart announced his candidacy, I, like many, was sceptical about this idea. This is a man who has spent a great deal of his life gallivanting around the Middle East, trekking across Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although he ventured back into domestic politics, he was still located up in Cumbria, which hardly made him an individual who could comprehend the struggles of a 21st-century Londoner.
But then again, this is precisely what we forget about Mr Stewart. He’s not your typical career politician. He doesn’t seek high office for the sake of his own profile or image. He knew that if he were to have any chance of not just winning the Mayoral election, but gaining the trust and respect of Londoners, then he would have to immerse himself in the city. Understanding that London is about more than just Oxford Street and Westminster, and that within the beating heart of this nation lies a whole myriad of communities.
From the elites in Kensington and Chelsea to the proletariats and hard grafters of Millwall, Rory Stewart made it his goal to converse with people in every borough, in nearly every nook and cranny of the streets of London.
Rory Walks… Come Kip with Me… These were all well-thought-through campaign ideas. It may have seemed natural to take the piss when you saw it all unravelling on Twitter, but bear in mind that neither Sadiq Khan nor Shaun Bailey has ever seemed interested in going to the lengths that Rory did when it comes to getting to know Londoners.
The polls showed that Rory was pottering around in third place, behind Bailey and Khan. This was a point that Sadiq Khan would often raise during interviews, suggesting that the race to be Mayor of London was merely a two-horse affair between himself and the Tory candidate.
He dismissed Rory because he knew of the threat he posed. Unlike Shaun Bailey, Rory was starting to appeal not just to the liberal Conservatives in London, but also the middle-class Labour clique, who had previously backed Sadiq, as well as to the Lib Dem vote and even some of the Green Party support.
Rory, like his fellow candidates, had been expecting to stand in the Mayoral Election in March of this year. However, due to COVID-19 making it impossible for us even to go outside and breathe, that didn’t happen. Londoners soon found out that they were being postponed until 2021, which would mean another year of campaigning. However, it was this further year of campaigning that Rory could not afford, which was why, on May 6th, he sent an e-mail to his staff informing them that he was pulling out of the race.
A couple of months later, the Liberal Democrat candidate would have to do the same, meaning that at this point in time there is no centrist/liberal figure running for Mayor of London.
London, one of the most diverse, inclusive, beautiful and liberal cities in the world, is lacking a liberal leadership candidate. It just doesn’t seem right.