Conservative Home: For many years I’ve often joked that it’s more difficult to come out as a Conservative than it is to come out as gay.
I used to have clients deserting my company because of my association with the Conservative Party, taking particular exception to the Party’s then record on minority rights.
But I’ve always steadfastly held the view that coming from nothing to being a success – the principle of social mobility – is a Conservative value, and that is why I’ve been a Tory since the age of 14.
I saw an escape from being cast as a failure from birth, and Margaret Thatcher’s leadership embodied that sense of opportunity. As part of William Hague’s policy team, with others I tried to craft a natural extension to Thatcherism, seeking to find a 21st century answer to meeting people’s aspirations.
It is my personal experience of making it in London that brings me to put myself forward to fight for the Conservative nomination for Mayor.
In recent weeks there has been criticism of the Party’s selection process by figures such as Matthew Parris and Iain Dale, who are unhappy of what they see as some kind of establishment ‘stitch up’. Other candidates have expressed similar concerns.
I have personally seen no proof of any of this, and count many senior Tories, such as my former flatmate Michael Gove, as close friends. I do, however, want to talk about why the Conservatives would benefit from having at least one or two other candidates on the ballot for the open primary.
Over the last year of campaigning for the mayoralty, I’ve stood on podiums next to Labour candidates and people like George Galloway, having to fight the Conservative cause on my own.
None of these people seem to understand the value of rewarding hard work, rather than punishing success in the name of a distorted vision of fairness.
None of them realise that it’s when you back entrepreneurship and incentivise investment that you create the greatest opportunities for everyone in society, just as London did for me 30 years ago.
As well as making the necessary infrastructure investments, London needs a mayor who produces innovative solutions to boost the housing supply and skills, rather than being a business-bashing pressure group campaigner against central government.
Equally, cleaning up London’s air and improving our environment must not be done so dogmatically that it holds back this growth and these opportunities.
After all, pragmatism and economic competence are, I believe, principles at the heart of what it means to be a Conservative, and these values must be given a voice in this mayoral race, rather than eliminated at the first hurdle.
I’ve asked my supporters if they will hit this link to send a message to CCHQ to help make the case for me to be on the ballot, in order that we can have a wide-ranging a debate as possible.
I’ve spent the last year doing the groundwork, campaigning for Tory candidates all over London, and meeting everyone from developers to charities to Tfl operators to Deputy Mayors in order to prepare a comprehensive policy list.
With over 20,000 supporters signed up, I’ve also been able to hear really good ideas from many ordinary Londoners who just want to make their city better.
But now it all comes down to this week, and the selection panel interview to see whether or not I can make it onto the ballot for the open primary. All I want is to be able to take the ideas I’ve developed on housing, transport, policing, and a Londoners Fund for our best causes among many others, and give people the chance to debate them and either vote for them or not.
I believe that my policies, combined with my experience and passion, will be an asset to the Conservative Party further in this race. I’m the only candidate who has built up a multi-million pound business from scratch, and the only one who isn’t a party insider.
London wants and deserves a broader debate, involving as many interests and perspectives as possible, and I know so many in the party that want us to respond to that desire.
The bottom line is that we must beat Labour, and to do that we need to pick a candidate who knows how to speak to a wider London audience.
Having made gains in London at the general election, Labour are in a strong position here, and lacking ambition or imagination at this stage is not something we as Conservatives can afford if we want to retain City Hall next year. Now isn’t the time to narrow the field of perspectives or personalities.
I respect all of my Tory competitors, who are fantastic candidates in their own right. But Labour have a strong and mixed field of six to put to Londoners in their primary, and we need to avoid any complacency.
So today I am appealing for your help. If you think that I should be on the ballot in the Conservative open primary – even if you’ve either not yet decided who you’ll be voting for or have decided that you’ll vote for someone else – please let the panel know by clicking here.
Provided enough people send this, we can make sure that Londoners get a real choice to decide who they want as their Conservative candidate for Mayor.