Tory mayoral candidate disowns Hague and declares manifesto independence

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The Independent Online
WILLIAM HAGUE faced more embarrassment last night after a Tory candidate for the mayor of London disowned the leadership and said he would be fighting on an independent manifesto.

In a fresh twist to the farce over the selection of a Tory candidate for the race, Andrew Boff said he was seeking the support of the Tory party in a ballot of its 38,000 London members but he would not be bound by any of the Conservative leadership's policies.

Describing himself as the only "true, independent choice that the voters have in London", Mr Boff said: "I will not be bound by collective responsibility of the Shadow Cabinet. I will not be bound by a Conservative manifesto at a future general election. This is the Boff campaign for which I am seeking the support of the London Conservative Party. I believe it is important that an independent stance is emphasised.

"I will not be fighting for a particular ideology. I will be fighting on the basis of my manifesto. I believe that independence is important. It is the only way that we can put London's future first."

His remarks were seen as a clear attempt to distance himself from the leadership after a series of blows to Mr Hague, including chaos over the mayoralty race caused by Lord Archer's resignation, and the defection to Labour of Shaun Woodward, the former Tory communications director, who alleged the party had lurched to the right under Mr Hague.

"He's just handed the Tory nomination to Steve Norris," said a Labour spokesman. His outspoken comments dismayed the Tory party leadership. "Is he planning to stand as independent if he doesn't get the Tory nomination?" asked one senior Conservative.

Mr Boff, a former Tory leader of the London borough of Hillingdon, said he would not be tearing up his Tory membership card, and he remained a Conservative. As the only openly gay Conservative candidate in the race, he said his sexuality was not an issue in the Tory race. He said the Tory Party had changed, and he had not seen a "blue rinse" for a long time.

He has written to Mr Hague opposing the leader's earlier hardline stance on section 28 - the law banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools, which led to Mr Woodward's defection. Mr Boff welcomed the search for a Tory compromise on the issue.

In his manifesto, he opposed Tory plans to privatise the London Underground - although he said it would be inevitable - and called for a multi-billion- pound investment in London transport by the taxpayer.