Is Rory Stewart capable of rising to the challenge? See what Comment Central’s Deputy Editor, Ted Jeffery thinks of his ability.

When I first saw Rory Stewart’s announcement that he was gearing up to take on Sadiq Khan and Shaun Bailey in next year’s Mayoral elections, I was somewhat surprised. How could an MP from Cumbria begin to understand the needs of Londoners, who are facing colossal Public Health epidemics? Are we supposed to view Rory as some kind of independently financed Messiah???

Behind the nerdy visage of this innocent-looking mind lurks a serious political operator. It was only a few months ago that he believed the Conservative Party could be saved from the evil clutches of Faragian politics. But, alas, this was not the case. Although he did better than expected, the party had already made it clear. They wanted BoJo. He was their man and the only one who could truly deliver on the wishes of the 52%. So I guess when it comes to Rory, maybe national politics just isn’t his bag. On the other hand, a revolutionary mind like his would be welcomed in a Local Authority such as City Hall.

In a previous piece, I wrote about the national epidemic that is homelessness. I’m still a firm believer that changing the way it’s administered in governmental departments is the first step in trying to reduce the issue. If there is one person who could help push the government to recognise homelessness as a Public Health issue – on top of seeing that it gets integrated into more than just one department – then Rory is undoubtedly that man.

Although Shaun Bailey appears to be very clued up on the issue of knife crime, from listening to various sources he seems to struggle when it comes to homelessness. Although it shouldn’t be turned into a political football, Rory needs to find a robust approach that shows up Shaun’s inability to deal with the matter. If it proves to be effective, this may put him ahead of Shaun in the race.

Knife crime is undoubtedly going to be one of the most significant talking points during the Mayoral race. I’ve lost count at the number of times I’ve turned on LBC in the morning and heard of another stabbing in East London. When I do, the same thought pops into my head. I can’t even begin to comprehend the pain that parents have to endure. Even though they say time is a great healer, I imagine for many of these families it’s more about having to live with the new normal.

It’s one thing for politicians to sympathise with those who are in a state of mourning, but it’s another to actually understand the culture some children find themselves growing up in. 

Policing is always focused on as the main factor in being able to combat the crisis. However, I believe there is a much more rooted issue that Rory should be turning his attention to. It may seem like a classic case of “let’s berate Tory austerity”, but there is a strong case for linking the reduction in youth clubs and centres to a rise in knife crime.

One of the policies Rory should be pushing for is to see more local youth centres being established. Not only are they havens for kids, but they provide communities with local mentors. It may not seem like much at the beginning, but when it comes to socialisation at secondary school, it may just prevent certain kids from getting into the wrong kinds of circles. It’s about playing the long game. Not everything has to be about the capability of the Met police. One thing Rory will have to keep in mind is that dealing with knife crime in London will most certainly be a marathon and not a sprint.

As much as I’d happily cheer on Rory from the sidelines, I still believe he’s doing this to say: “Look, you need someone like me back in the Tory Party. It’s important to keep it a broad church”. Could Rory’s cunning plan be to get the Tories to invite him back in? Seems a bit obtuse – however, if he ends up beating Shaun Bailey by a considerable margin, then it could very well be a massive slap in the face.

Either way, Londoners should pay close attention to Rory’s plans for instilling a new type and style of administration in the capital. Unlike certain Radio 4 presenters, voters should think about his value of compromise and not judge him based on the fact that he is a middle-aged, white Tory from Eton. He isn’t interested in protecting the old order and creating a chumocracy. What Rory wants and sees – not just in London, but nationwide – is a new style of practical, local politics.

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