A Brexit-supporting mayor isn't what Remainer London needs – Rory Stewart would know that if he'd been paying attention

The MP may look moderate alongside his former colleagues but his voting record shows the complete opposite. His position on EU citizens’ rights, climate change and more will not cut it with voters in the capital

Siobhan Benita
Saturday 05 October 2019 13:59 BST
Rory Stewart to stand to be London mayor

It is no surprise that Rory Stewart has quit the Conservative Party. It has become an extremist and narrow group led by a reckless prime minister. What is surprising is that the Brexit-backing MP for the rural constituency of Penrith and the Border has suddenly announced that he wants to be mayor of Remain-voting London.

I welcome the fact that the arrival of a new kid on the block is shining a light on next year’s mayoral election but I’m sorry to break it to Stewart – London is not just a liberal, Remain city. It is now a Liberal Democrat city.

At the European elections in May, the Liberal Democrats got more votes than any other party, returning three MEPs and winning outright in 16 boroughs. It was our best result in the capital ever. And this was not a one-off. Recent polls have shown us in the lead in the capital, ahead of Labour and well ahead of the Conservatives. We are now the popular and the credible choice for voters in London.

Our membership in the capital is soaring and we have thousands of active and enthused volunteers willing to pound the streets, deliver leaflets, make phone calls and implement our digital strategy. The Lib Dem machine is bigger and hungrier than it’s ever been. And that is crucial. In 2012, I too ran as an independent candidate for mayor of London. While I secured almost 300,000 first and second-round votes, I know first-hand that it’s impossible to run a winning campaign without a party machine behind you.

And it’s no good talking about love and liberal values if your actions don’t match your words. Stewart may look moderate alongside his former, far-right colleagues but his voting record shows that he is far from being liberal. He has voted for Brexit on three occasions, voted against protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK and voted against measures to tackle the climate crisis. He isn’t in favour of young people getting the vote and he has supported funding cuts for local government. None of that represents the London that I know and love. And it won’t cut it with voters.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

While the home secretary gloats about bringing an end to freedom of movement, Stewart sits alongside Jeremy Corbyn on the Brexit fence, content and complicit in an EU exit. I’m proud to be running as a Liberal Democrat and to be totally committed to stopping the calamity of Brexit because there is NO deal that is good for London, or good for the country.

So, while Stewart walks from his party, I’ll be taking the train to Brussels where I will meet European parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt, senior officials and MEPs to discuss how we can keep freedom of movement in London and freedom of movement for Londoners. And how we will protect the rights of EU citizens here in the capital and UK citizens in Europe. Our party is defending the global, liberal, pro-European, warm-hearted and dynamic values that make our capital so special. As Liberal Democrat mayor, I will always do the same.

Siobhan Benita is the Liberal Democrats’ candidate for London mayor 2020

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in