To say that the past week or so for the London mayoral candidate for the Conservatives, Shaun Bailey, has been a rough ride would be a massive understatement. Since it was announced shortly before Conservative Party Conference that Bailey had beaten Andrew Boff and Joy Morrissey, skeletons have been walking out of his closet on an almost weekly basis, undermining his chances of turning London blue once more.
The first revelation that came out about Bailey’s was regarding comments he made about multiculturalism and religions, specifically Hindu and Islam, “robbing Britain of its community” and causing Britain to become a “crime ridden cesspool”.
This, for anyone who kept an eye on the previous mayoral elections in London, would instantly recall memories of the blundering campaign that was run by the Conservatives when Zac Goldsmith MP ran against current Mayor Sadiq Khan. The campaign was marred with instances of Goldsmith’s campaign coming under fire for questionable tactics and leafleting strategies, and he came under fire from top Tory peer Baroness Warsi.
The Goldsmith campaign of 2016 was also condemned by the aforementioned Andrew Boff, following a prompt from the Muslim Council of Britain to condemn the campaign for its ‘racist undertones’. However, Bailey did not condemn the campaign in the same way as Mr Boff, instead opting to issue a rather tepid joint statement with Joy Morrissey.
Bailey’s campaign wasn’t helped by the fact that, just as Labour is facing an ongoing crisis with antisemitism within its ranks, there are heavy, and consistently worrying battles against Islamophobia within the Conservative Party ranks.
There have been significant calls from leading peers in the House of Lords, including Warsi and Lord Sheikh, to hold an enquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. Their concerns are not unjustified and Mr Bailey’s comments show that this is still a prevalent issue within the party, which needs to be flushed out immediately.
However, this week a new batch of appalling comments from Bailey have been unearthed and made public. This time, it came to light that he had turned his sights to single mothers on benefits.
In comments made in 2006, Bailey is alleged to have said that single mothers were deliberately having children in order to secure housing and state handouts from the government, and two years later suggested at Conservative Party Conference that young women becoming pregnant for state support was a “cottage industry”.
Bailey, as a mayoral candidate, must voice his concerns about exploitation of the benefits system much more responsibly. If the Conservatives are to stand any chance of taking back the keys to City Hall in the next London mayoral election then Bailey has a tall mountain to scale and a lot of things to put right along the way.
One thing that certainly needs to happen is for the party and campaign chiefs to distance themselves from the appalling smear campaign that was run by Zac Goldsmith that inferred that Sadiq Khan was linked to extremists. Instead, they need to push forward with a message of hope for the people of London that a Conservative mayor would be able to ease the issues currently facing Londoners, particularly young boys and men currently embroiled in the knife crime epidemic that has befallen the capital this year.
Bailey has a stellar professional record, having worked for David Cameron when he was Prime Minister as a special adviser on youth and crime from 2010-13, and founded a charity that addressed social problems that affect young people and their families. He also clearly represents a break from the stereotypical ‘old Etonian’ image given to Conservatives, and coming from a working-class family, he is likely to understand the socio-economic issues that afflict families in London’s less prosperous areas.
However, his past comments threaten to undermine his chances despite his obvious credentials. If the Conservatives are to win in London, Mr Bailey needs to recognise that his comments were misplaced and apologise for them.
Whether this will happen is another question entirely. One thing at least is for certain, it is going to be a tall order for the Conservatives to topple Sadiq Khan.