London mayor hopeful Rory Stewart quits race over virus outbreak

Incumbent Sadiq Khan now clear favourite in contest postponed to next year

Rory Stewart has brought his campaign to become London mayor to an end. AFP
Rory Stewart has brought his campaign to become London mayor to an end. AFP

London mayor candidate Rory Stewart on Wednesday quit the race to run the British capital, saying the coronavirus outbreak had made campaigning for the position “impossible”.

The election has been postponed by a year due to the crisis, and the former diplomat and international development minister said he could not ask the army of unpaid volunteers behind his campaign to continue.

Quitting was an “agonising decision,” he said, admitting he had given up hope of securing what he said was his “dream job”.

Mr Stewart, who served as Deputy Governor of the Coalition Provisional Authority after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was running as an independent candidate against Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Conservative party’s Shaun Bailey.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the money would be invested in front-line services such as public transport. Reuters  
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the money would be invested in front-line services such as public transport. Reuters  

A recent poll, from Queen Mary University of London last month, had Mr Stewart in third place behind Mr Khan and Mr Bailey, on 13 per cent.

The election is due to take place in May next year after being postponed as Britain went into lockdown in March.

Explaining his decision to pull out of the race to London’s Evening Standard newspaper, Mr Stewart said: “I have taken a few weeks to get my head straight. Yes, I could have left things open and I could have teased people a bit, but I think it (continuing to campaign) would have been unfair to myself or my supporters.”

The former cabinet minister also described the impact of the outbreak on the campaign: “Perhaps because I had dealt as a Secretary of State with Ebola, I was quicker than some to see the problem of coronavirus.

“But sadly, this spelled the end of our dreams for London,” he added.

“I could not put our volunteers through another 12 months of campaigning in an environment completely changed by coronavirus and with the odds now so steeply against us.”

Mr Stewart’s entry into the mayoral contest came off the back of his better-than-expected performance in the 2019 Conservative party leadership contest, eventually won by current UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Published: May 6, 2020 04:20 PM

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