- Exclusive: Sadiq Khan expects the Conservatives to reject a controversial Tory MP in the race to stand for election against the London mayor.
- Theresa May’s Conservative party are in the process of selecting their candidate for the mayoral race in 2020.
- The most high-profile Conservative candidate to put themselves forward so far is MP Andrew Rosindell.
- Rosindell was mired in a race row earlier this year after releasing “dog-whistle” leaflets in the local elections.
LONDON – London Mayor Sadiq Khan expects the Conservative party to reject the most high-profile candidate hoping to challenge him for re-election, due to a race row over a “dog-whistle” leaflet he put out earlier this year, Business Insider has been told.
Theresa May’s Conservative party closed the application process on Wednesday for the race to challenge Labour’s Khan as London mayor.
Of the two dozen names reported to have been put forward by the party, the most high-profile is Conservative MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell.
Rosindell caused controversy earlier this year after being accused of “dog-whistle” racism for distributing leaflets in this year’s local elections which claimed that a vote for Khan’s Labour party would cause “massive population influxes” from inner-city London. The leaflet claimed a vote for Khan’s party would leave Havering looking more “like Hackney, Newham, Camden and Barking rather than a traditional part of Essex.”
If Rosindell is selected he would succeed former candidate Zac Goldsmith, who was also accused of running a racially-charged campaign against Khan in 2016.
Goldsmith was heavily criticised after running a campaign which attempted to tie Khan, who is a Muslim, to Islamic extremism, as well as distributing leaflets to Hindu communities suggesting that a vote for Khan would put their family jewellery at risk.
Former Conservative party chair, Baroness Warsi, told BI last month that the campaign had caused the party lasting damage with ethnic minority voters.
Friends of Khan expressed surprise that the party appeared not to have learnt the lessons from that race.
“There are a lot of people on that list who play the same kind of politics that Zac Goldsmith played. Rosindell, in particular, has a track record of divisive politics and dog whistles,” one source close to Khan told BI.
A ‘challenging’ re-election race
Team Khan believes Rosindell will make it through to the final round of the selection process but ultimately expect him to be rejected in favour of London Assembly member and Afro-Caribbean youth worker, Shaun Bailey.
“My gut instinct is it would be very difficult not to shortlist a Conservative MP,” a source close to Khan told BI.
“So we, therefore, expect it to be a fight between Rosindell and Bailey, and you would think that if you put that choice to a reasoned group of people, we would expect Bailey to win.”
Despite the shortage of big names willing to take on Khan, his allies still expect a “challenging” re-election race.
George Osborne [is] editing the Evening Standard so I would expect this to be a challenging re-election.
“This election is actually going to be challenging,” the source said.
“Labour did far less well than expected in the local elections. We didn’t take Westminster and Wandsworth and we went back in Barnet. On top of that, you’ve got [former Conservative chancellor] George Osborne editing the Evening Standard so I would expect this to be a challenging re-election.”
However, Khan’s allies believe Bailey is beatable, not least because of his support for Brexit, which was heavily opposed by London voters.
The Conservative party are expected to announce a long list of candidates for the race in the coming days.