Former Conservative leadership contender and MP Rory Stewart has ended his campaign to be mayor of London.
In a video from his home posted on Twitter, he explained that the decision to delay the election to next May due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as the difficulty in campaigning, had caused great difficulty to continue his campaign.
“It would have been the honour of my life to serve the city as mayor, but while the considerable challenges of running as an independent were manageable for a normal race, they are forbidding for an extended and delayed election,” his full statement read.
Stewart launched his campaign back in October last year, pledging to listen to the needs of ordinary Londoners.
At his peak, Stewart had polled third in opinion polling for the mayoral race, with 13 percent of the vote, behind both Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey.
What might this mean for the race?
Polling suggested that Stewart’s campaign had a huge impact on the Conservatives; with Bailey expected to score only a quarter of the vote in the first round in the latest opinion poll. This could be reversed by his decision, but London overall still voted strongly for Labour in the general election last year.
The smaller parties may breathe a sigh of relief at the news, particularly the Greens who will likely maintain the third place position they have held for a few mayoral elections. The Liberal Democrats may also be keen to poach some of Stewart’s liberal conservative supporters to boost their flagging campaign.
What is unlikely to change, barring some scandal or big impact from the coronavirus, is Khan’s re-election prospects, which remain very high.