Rory Stewart said he has previously slept in over 500 strangers’ houses, following the launch of his #ComeKipWithMe campaign on Tuesday.
As part of his bid to become mayor of London, the former Tory MP has asked members of the public from the 32 boroughs if he can join them overnight to “get to know the city”.
Speaking to the PA news agency, he said that over 1,000 people had written to him in the 24 hours since launching the campaign, inviting him to stay.
Today I'm launching #ComeKipWithMe – asking Londoners to invite me into their homes and show me the city through their eyes. I want to know your concerns and your ideas. And I promise to bring a sleeping bag and a box of chocolates!
— Rory Stewart (@RoryStewartUK) February 11, 2020
“It’s quite a business going through a thousand offers,” he said.
“I try to focus on people who are in particular need, so try to get people with particular problems they want me to see.”
The mayoral hopeful said that he did not find the visits awkward but was uncertain whether he was a “good house guest”.
“I’ve stayed in over 550 people’s houses in total, not just in London… I am quite used to turning up at people’s houses and sleeping on their floors.
“My wife says that I don’t snore too much, but then she’s very polite.
“It’s difficult to know how much I snore.”
The campaign has received a mixed response online, with some people making jokes about the former cabinet minister staying at their homes.
Asked about the vetting process for potential hosts, he said he was “not too worried.
“I do ask a member of my staff to go round and say hello and introduce themselves and check people are happy.
“I’ve slept in houses in central Afghanistan Iran and Pakistan, I’m not too worried about staying in people’s houses in London.”
The independent candidate added that the campaign was “very doable”, even with his wife and two children, aged five and two.
So sorry. Thought you were still asleep. https://t.co/pJ6AvaJTnp
— Rory Stewart (@RoryStewartUK) February 12, 2020
“Many people in London spend nights away from their family,” he said.
“Many people sadly have to commute even further, a weekly commute for work so I think being out of the house for one night a week in another borough in London staying with someone is something that I owe to people in London.
“I think it will work well with a family.”
Mr Stewart said he hoped to meet people who were “willing to open up and be frank about their life and their challenges” and give a “decent sense of what it is that they’re really thinking about and worrying about”.
He said that he had spoken to hosts about their problems but also “cheerful things” like going to see musicals in London.
On the mayoral race itself he remained “realistic” but was confident he could beat frontrunner Sadiq Khan.
“If I come second to Sadiq in the last round, all the second preferences from all the other candidates would be redistributed and that would be the way that I would win.
“I would like to win outright but we have to be realistic, I am at the moment in the bookies, second in terms of probability.
“I think I am more energetic than Sadiq and more active.
“I’m more likely to reduce violent crime, to build affordable housing.
“I’m not somebody who spends their time saying I don’t have any power or it’s the fault of the central government or blaming other people for cuts – I get things done.”