Senior Tories wanted right-wing Reform candidate for London mayor instead of Susan Hall

Exclusive: With voters in London set to go to the polls tomorrow to elect a new mayor, it has emerged that a cabinet minister was among senior Tories not to want Susan Hall as their candidate

David Maddox
Political Editor
Wednesday 01 May 2024 17:22 BST
Susan Hall accidentally says she will be London ‘first Labour female mayor’

A cabinet minister was among senior Tories who pushed for Reform UK’s Howard Cox to be their candidate for London mayor instead of the beleaguered Susan Hall, The Independent understands.

A source close to the prime minister’s inner circle has claimed they wrote to Rishi Sunak pleading with him to select the right-wing motorist campaigner Mr Cox ahead of the decision by London party members to nominate Susan Hall.

The claims come as Ms Hall’s former deputy leader in Harrow Council, Barry Macleod-Cullinane, today endorsed Labour’s Sadiq Khan as a Savanta poll put him 10 points ahead of his Conservative rival.

The source said: “Howard has worked with [the minister] and other [Conservative] MPs for many years on the Fair Fuel UK campaign and he is a great campaigner. [The minister] thought he would make an excellent candidate for London mayor and told the PM but was ignored.”

Sources close to Mr Cox have also told The Independent that he has been lobbied by a number of senior Tory MPs including ministers even after he committed to Reform.

Tory ministers preferred Reform’s Howard Cox to Susan Hall
Tory ministers preferred Reform’s Howard Cox to Susan Hall (Getty)

“Howard has been told by senior MPs including ministers that ‘with Tory backing you would win hands down’ and on numerous occasions been asked ‘would you consider’ running.”

One MP said: “Ulez [the ultra-low-emission zone] is the main issue in this election and Howard has years of experience campaigning for motorists with Fair Fuel UK. He would have been ideal and I’ve told him that.”

Mr Cox is understood to have told those attempting to woo him that he “is a man of principle” and “once I have given my word to somebody I won’t go back on it”.

He is also understood to have been unhappy that the Conservatives want to keep Ulez in inner London and only scrap Mr Khan’s extension of the £12.50 a day charge on non-compliant polluting vehicles to outer London.

The Conservative Party declined to comment on the claims. However, the row behind the scenes has reflected unease over the selection of Ms Hall who has been criticised for her right-wing views including supporting Donald Trump.

There was previously anger at an alleged attempt to scupper former London minister Paul Scully’s bid to be the Tory candidate while other high-profile contenders were also forced out of the race.

Meanwhile, Ms Hall’s former deputy Mr Macleod-Cullinane added to her woes on the eve of polling.

Picturing himself with Mr Khan, he posted on X (formerly Twitter): “I was @Councillorsuzie’s deputy on @harrow_council for over 7 years. On 2nd May, I’ll be voting for @UKLabour’s @SadiqKhan to be @MayorofLondon again, to serve all the people of our great city.”

Hall has faced a number of criticisms since being selected as the Tory candidate for mayor of London
Hall has faced a number of criticisms since being selected as the Tory candidate for mayor of London (AFP/Getty)

A Savanta poll also suggested that Mr Khan will be the runaway winner when votes are counted on Saturday putting him in the lead on 42 per cent to Ms Hall’s 32 per cent with Mr Cox in fifth place on 3 per cent.

For the first time since the London mayor position was created, the winner will be decided by first past the post which means they do not need more than 50 per cent to be declared as the winner. Previously, if no candidate secured 50 per cent plus one there would be a runoff between the top two candidates.

A Conservative source close to Ms Hall dismissed Mr Macleod-Cullinane’s support for the current London mayor saying: “Have you read his Twitter profile?”

Mr Macleod-Cullinane describes himself as “part of the ‘Remainer institutional mind virus’, [who] aspires to join the ‘woke blob’”.

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