Political parties are “dragging towards the extremes”, Rory Stewart has said, as he sought to position himself as the London mayoral candidate without ties to either Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson.
The ex-Tory Cabinet minister said mayors who were part of political parties carry the “baggage” of their manifestos with them – instead suggesting that as an independent candidate he could “really focus” on London’s interests.
Mr Stewart audaciously revealed live on stage on Friday that he was resigning as a member of the Conservative Party and as an MP, and later announced his intention to stand as an independent candidate in next year’s race to be mayor of London.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think British political parties are dragging towards the extremes. I think there is a gaping hole in the centre…
“I’m obviously not a partisan of Sadiq Khan’s or indeed of any political party – I think that mayoral roles can be done very well by independents.
“And I think the danger of mayors being part of political parties is they carry the whole damage and the baggage of those manifestos with them.
“I would like to be a mayor of London that can really focus on London’s interests rather than being tied to Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson.”
In a swipe at the incumbent Mr Khan, Mr Stewart said he did not think he had “made the most” of the role and that it was “not clear” what his dreams are for London.
“I can make the role of mayor something bigger than it’s been in the past – I think there’s huge potential in the role of mayor of London,” Mr Stewart insisted.
“I think it’s something that we see in cities like New York, I don’t think we’ve begun to see the potential of it.”
Over the coming weeks, the 46-year-old intends to emulate his walk across Afghanistan in 2002 – which the ex-diplomat wrote about for a travel book – by touring each borough of London on foot as part of a listening mission before the campaign kicks off.
The Remain campaigner has been highly critical of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit, leading to him being sacked as a Tory MP by Mr Johnson last month – along with 20 other colleagues – for voting against a no-deal exit.