Tories wanted me as Mayor, says Robinson

Party turned to Boris after presenter rejected offer to run against Livingstone

The television presenter Anne Robinson was approached by the Conservative Party to stand for them as London Mayor but turned down the offer, she reveals today in an interview in The Independent.

Ms Robinson, 64, known as the "queen of mean" for her insults to contestants on The Weakest Link , was asked to stand by the Conservatives' director of strategy, Steve Hilton, in 2007, before Boris Johnson had been approached.

"I don't think I've ever revealed this, but, before the Tories asked Boris to be their candidate for mayor of London, they asked me if I'd stand," Ms Robinson said. "Steve Hilton and I were walking on holiday in Switzerland and he asked if I'd consider it."

The Conservative leadership had been struggling to find high-profile candidates for the election, held in May 2008, and at one point interviewed the disc jockey Mike Read, a former presenter of Top of the Pops. He joined (the bottom of) an unofficial shortlist.

The Tory leader, David Cameron, was forced to announce a delay in August 2007 to an "X-Factor-style" selection contest in which Londoners would be able to vote for their favourite choice, after being turned down by a number of high-profile figures. Lord Coe and the former Metropolitan Police chief Lord Stevens were reported to have turned down approaches.

Ms Robinson quickly dismissed Mr Hilton's suggestion. "I wasn't interested," she said. "At the time, there was no candidate and they were obviously casting around. After me, they probably moved on to [Jeremy] Clarkson." Mr Johnson was officially confirmed as candidate a month later, after agonising about whether he should stand.

The Mayor responded to the claim with fighting talk yesterday. Mr Johnson's spokesman said that he would not have been afraid to compete against Ms Robinson for the candidacy. "Boris was the choice of ordinary Conservatives and people in London," he said. "The only thing he said at the time was 'I fear no man', and you can probably add woman to that. Even Anne Robinson."

Ms Robinson said she was also offered a political role by the Conservative MP Alan Clark over dinner – he proposed she be parachuted into a safe Tory seat and could eventually join the Cabinet – but she dismissed it as a chat-up line.

"It was a fabulously clever line," the former journalist said. "It was no use saying to me, 'You're fabulously beautiful, come to bed.' But if you could appeal to my vanity and my having a brain as well ..."

Conservative wish-list: Potential candidates

*Greg Dyke

The ex-BBC director-general was asked by the Tories to stand but would only have done so as an independent. He says Ken Livingstone would have beaten him.

*Mike Read

The DJ and television presenter, 62, was interviewed by the Conservative chairman, Francis Maude. His touting caused concern among senior Conservatives.

*Lord Stevens

The former Met Police chief was reportedly favoured by David Cameron but he was not keen on the role.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Membership Manager

£35 - 38k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager ...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£350 p/d (Contract): Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Web Developer (PHP /...

Recruitment Genius: Payroll & HR Administrator

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity to join a d...

Recruitment Genius: Cost Engineer / Technical Estimator

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks