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Shaun Bailey selected as Conservative candidate in 2020 London mayor race

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shaun bailey
Conservative London Mayoral Candidate Shaun Bailey (R)
alongside former Prime Minister David Cameron

Getty

  • Conservatives select Shaun Bailey to be their London
    Mayoral candidate against the current Labour Mayor Sadiq
    Khan.
  • Bailey won 43% of London Conservative members against
    35% for his nearest opponent in the first round of
    voting.
  • Sadiq Khan’s team anticipate a challenging battle in
    2020 against Bailey and his supporters in the Evening
    Standard.
  • However, Bailey has not fared well on the London
    Assembly against Khan and has little name-recognition.

 

LONDON — On paper, the Conservatives’
decision to select Shaun Bailey
as their candidate to run
against the current London Mayor Sadiq Khan looks sensible.

Bailey is a former youth worker turned government adviser and
London Assembly member who has what political commentators like
to call an appealing “backstory,” which roughly translates as him
being a working-class lad done good. The fact that he is also
black should again at least on paper, and help to undo some of
the damage done by the Conservative’s last London mayoral
campaign in which their then-candidate Zac Goldsmith was accused
of running a “dog-whistle” racist campaign against Labour’s Sadiq
Khan.

Bailey also has the
early and explicit backing
of London’s only dedicated
newspaper, the Evening Standard, which is coincidentally
currently edited by Bailey’s former colleague and former
Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne.

Those around the London mayor are
certainly not complacent
about the challenge from Bailey and
his main press backer, and they believe the election will be a
tough fight in a city which has seen a spike in violent crime
over the past year.

However, it is fair to say that Khan’s supporters are not exactly
quaking in their boots at the news of Bailey’s victory either.
For all his appealing “backstory,” Bailey is almost completely
unknown among the vast majority of Londoners. And for those that
do know him, it is not always a particularly impressive picture.

His performances on the London Assembly — where he regularly goes
toe-to-toe with Khan — are far from impressive. Whereas his
opponent for the Conservative nomination, Andrew Boff, has a long
experience of taking on both Labour and Conservative mayors in
the years he has been on the Assembly, Bailey sometimes comes
across as ill-experienced and at times stuttering, and has yet to
land a significant blow on Khan.

More importantly, the Labour operation has already
landed a successful pre-emptive strike on Bailey
, revealing
that he previously retweeted an Islamophobic image on Twitter.
Bailey claims ignorance of the full nature of the image but the
damage has surely already been done. The fact that neither Bailey
nor the Conservatives failed to spot this in advance suggests
their campaign operation leaves a lot to be desired.

Khan remains popular with Londoners, but his popularity has
dipped over the past year according to recent polling. It is
therefore possible to see how a high-profile and experienced
candidate could have mounted a serious challenge to Khan, even if
the odds of victory in a city which now overwhelmingly votes for
Labour appear slim. However, with all the potential “big names”
for the job ruling themselves out at an early stage, the party
has left itself with a candidate who performs far better on paper
than he has done on the political stage.

For the Conservatives, the route back to winning a majority at
the next election must go through London. A successful mayoral
campaign could have been a significant step on that journey. The
evidence so far is that Bailey is unlikely to help them very far
along that road.

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