It’s fair to say that there are a hell of a lot of people vying to be London’s mayor this year: the well-known Sadiq Khan and Shaun Bailey, several more tongue-in-cheek candidates, and finally, some serious candidates who are less well-known. I wish to explore the latter, focusing on those who may be described as right-of-centre.
Laurence Fox (Reclaim)
Laurence Fox would appear to be both the most well-known candidate in this category, and the one with the best chance of making an impact, with recent polling putting him at 4%; impressive considering his campaign has only launched very recently. He is well-known in conservative media, with a recent interview with the Hoover Institution receiving 500,000 views in just a few days. In terms of policies, Laurence’s Reclaim Party can be best described as conservative liberal (distinct from liberal conservative). The manifesto fuses the socially conservative with the classically liberal: it pledges to tackle knife crime with a “New York-style” approach, while also standing against “increasing authoritarianism” – for example, refusing to accept the implementation of vaccine passports. His main focus is on social politics, but he does still cover some economic issues: Laurence pledges to make the tube and buses free for six months in order to get London’s economy back on track. In short, Laurence has a broad appeal, with policies that appeal to conservatives of all persuasions, but particularly to those concerned with social issues. I have met him, and would certainly say that he is not a typical politician. Not afraid to speak his mind, he could appeal to many younger voters who want to see politicians with real personality.
David Kurten (Heritage)
David Kurten was orginally elected to the London Assembly in 2016, and stood as a UKIP candidate in several parliamentary elections. Having left the party in 2017, Kurten recently founded the Heritage Party which emphasises social conservatism. His pledges range from the abstract, such as standing up for traditional family values, to the concrete, including removing pop-up cycle lanes and road blocks introduced under Sadiq Khan’s mayorship. Particular focus is on crime, with pledges to introduce 3,000 more police officers and to end “politically correct policing”. Generally, the policy proposals are similar to those of the Reclaim Party, but Kurten is lacking in the name-recognition that is crucial for building momentum and getting votes.
Kam Balayev (Renew)
Another candidate who isn’t exactly a household name is Kam Balayev. In fact, his proposals are strikingly similar to those of America’s Andrew Yang, focusing on a technocratic, centre-right economic approach. In order to help small businesses and spur growth, Balayev pledges to lower business rates. But most notably, the Renew Party pledges to harness the potential of the “New Economy” – in other words, divert the money that big tech companies earn from user data towards Londoners through a Universal Basic Income in London. It is unclear how this could actually be achieved given that the Mayor only has power to modify council tax and business rates, and certainly cannot impose taxes on specific kinds of companies. But in any case, Balayev may be a go-to option for economically-minded Tories who want to see problems solved with bold, but pragmatic, ideas.
Peter Gammons (UKIP)
Peter Gammons’ background is certainly unusual, in part due to his occupation as a religious “motivational speaker.” He once claimed to have cured 18,000 deaf and blind Brazilians ‘through the power of the Lord’ and to have preached to a crowd of “4 million” in Manila. His proposals are also eqaully bizarre, with a promise to develop an estimated millions of miles of abandoned tunnel under London – converting them into walkways and transport systems for cars. Gammons also pledges to improve London’s environment through planting millions of trees, instead of measures that restrict road vehicles. In terms of social policy, his platform is staunchly anti-lockdown. Gammons is likely to be an unpopular choice given the increasingly toxic UKIP ‘brand.’
Brian Rose (London Real)
Despite appearing in countless adverts, and with some bookmakers putting his odds of being mayor higher than Shaun Bailey’s, it’s not actually obvious who Brian Rose actually is, or what he stands for. One thing that does become apparent with research is that he is vehemently opposed to lockdowns, criticising the Government’s selective use of data in justifying restrictive measures. He also advocates for the strengthening of free speech online, although this appears to be beyond the scope of the London mayor’s competencies. But unlike other right-leaning candidates, Rose takes a hard approach on environmental issues, pledging to remove on-street parking in “targeted central London areas” to reduce congestion. His campaign is a mix of both left and right-wing policies which, combined with a significant presence in advertising campaigns, has led to him polling at 3%, well above most of the other minor candidates.
It seems that this election is a foregone conclusion, with Sadiq polling at around 50% in the first round alone. Therefore, there isn’t much to be lost from voting for a third-party candidate. In any case, the two-round system means that vote-splitting will not be an issue. And who knows, it could be that one of the third parties makes it through. Most likely to gain representation will be Reclaim, a catch-all party for small-C conservatives who are disaffected with the big-C conservatives at present, which has the right amount name-recognition to make it an impact at the polls.