I find myself looking at the shortlist for Conservative mayoral candidates with pride. While the four potential candidates represent differing strands of the Conservative tradition any one of them would make an excellent mayor. I know them all, have worked with them all, respect them all.
But selections are about making choices, and I have chosen to vote for Syed Kamall. If you will indulge me I'd like to explain why.
All four candidates have years of service to the party under their belts, they're all well known and well liked. Syed has pounded the pavements right across London for years, in general elections, by-elections, council elections and in support of Boris in previous mayoral elections. He has been so ubiquitous that I've sometimes suspected that there is a cloned version of him out campaigning too.
London Conservatives know he is a grafter and will graft on his behalf. But the London mayoralty cannot be won with habitual Conservative voters alone. We need a candidate who can reach out beyond our traditional voter base and I believe that Syed is best placed to do that. As leader of the UK and then international group of Conservatives in the European Parliament, Syed has shown than he can build coalitions, an essential skill both during the campaign and in office. With the London Mayoralty, more than any other British elected office, the man is the message and the message is the man.
Syed’s personal story will chime with many Londoners, his father came to this country to make a better life for himself and for his family. Syed has been successful in business, academia and in politics. He is a free marketeer who understands that the purpose of politics should be to help spread opportunity, whilst allowing people to reach their potential. He has been actively involved in numerous charities and social action projects that aim to achieve precisely that. He has spoken out about the dangers of charities relying on state funding, whilst defending the benefits – and indeed the necessity – of helping charities to take on projects for which the state is poorly equipped.
These attributes will help Syed as a candidate. I will also be voting for Syed because he is the candidate who will give the Conservative Party the best chance of winning in May. I know that he is not the only Conservative candidate who can win, but I know labour would find it very difficult to attack him. They could not attack him on experience because he has represented London as an MEP for over 10 years, whilst serving as the Leader of the ECR Group since June 2014. They could not attack him as being unrepresentative of London. They could not attack him as out of touch. They would have no choice but to stick to policies and, when the focus is on policies, there are few better advocates of Conservativism than Syed.