Despite memories of their deeply unpleasant 2016 campaign still lingering in the memory of many Londoners, the Tories have already set their sights on the 2020 Mayoral election, apparently determined to mount a serious challenge to Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan. But hardly had they selected their candidate than their challenge was effectively over.
The Blue Team has a problem figuring out London: the capital now has a Labour MP representing Kensington, previously safe seats like Putney, Chingford and Woodford Green and even Uxbridge and South Ruislip (cripes chaps!) looking vulnerable, and MPs like Diane Abbott sitting on a 35,000 majority, with over 75% of the popular vote.
What kind of Tory candidate would appeal to Londoners? Ones with notoriety (“Shagger” Norris) hadn’t cut it, and nor had those with obscene amounts of wealth, like Zac Goldsmith. So next time, seeings Labour will field a brown man, they’re going to field a black candidate, so there. Step forward Shaun Bailey.
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, hardly had Bailey secured the nomination from London’s Tories than his past returned to haunt him. As the Guardian has reported, “Accommodating Muslims and Hindus ‘robs Britain of its community’ and risks turning the country into a ‘crime-riddled cesspool’ as a result, the Conservative candidate for London mayor declared in a thinktank pamphlet he wrote a decade ago”.
Do go on. “Shaun Bailey voiced concern about the marking of Muslim and Hindu festivals, claimed that children were being taught more about Diwali than Christmas and argued Britain ‘removing the religion that British people generally take to’ had allowed immigrants to bring their country’s cultural problems with them”. It got worse.
“In his No Man’s Land pamphlet for the Centre for Policy Studies, about the problems faced by inner-city youth, Bailey also appeared to confuse Hindi speakers with the Hindu religion … ‘You bring your children to school and they learn far more about Diwali than Christmas. I speak to the people who are from Brent and they’ve been having Muslim and Hindi days off’”. The condemnation was immediate.
Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain, Virendra Sharma MP, Ms Abbott, journalist Shehab Khan, pundit Owen Jones and others passed severely adverse comment on Bailey’s comments. And now his own party is starting to wobble.
The Guardian, to its credit, was back on the case yesterday. “The Conservatives’ deputy chairman has conceded that the party’s newly selected London mayoral candidate ‘could and should’ have made clear he was not singling out Muslims or Hindus when he wrote about the impact of multiculturalism … James Cleverly insisted Shaun Bailey had been misunderstood”. Yeah, right. But Bailey retains the Tories’ full confidence. For now.
“Cleverly said Bailey would not be reprimanded and that he had the party’s full support to take on Labour’s Sadiq Khan in two years time. ‘It was ridiculous to suggest he was selected on anything other than quality,’ he said”. Interesting way to say “on a wing and a prayer”. The problem for Cleverly is that Bailey is already bust.
Still, they can spin it as playing a long game and looking at 2024. What a total shower.
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