Who will be the Conservative candidate for London mayor?

A London entrepreneur has entered the race to succeed Boris, suggesting the Tories could try to defeat Labour with a "celebrity" candidate.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Boris Johnson, as anyone who has followed in his footsteps through the corridors of Eton and beyond will know, is a hard act to follow. So who will the Conservatives field as their candidate for the London mayoralty to run to replace him in 2016?

The Evening Standard is reporting a high-profile London entrepreneur called Ivan Massow's bid to run for the Tories. He has declared today that he intends to be their candidate for London mayor. He is the first to do so for the Tories.

He told the Standard that he is a "rags to riches boy" who "didn't go to Oxford or Eton", and is not afraid of putting "principle before party" in his campaign for the mayoralty. He left school at 16, and within seven years had set up his own financial services business, which was Britain's first firm aimed at advising gay clients.

Massow is well-known for being a fierce campaigner for fox-hunting, defecting temporarily to the Labour party in 2000 in rebellion against Section 28, and being quite the publicity seeker. In 2003, he posed naked for a painting by portrait artist Jonathan Yeo, and, controversially for some, from 1999-2002 chaired the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He caused a stir when he wrote a piece for the New Statesman attacking conceptual art's domination of the art world. During the Nineties, he was for a while the flatmate of the now Chief Whip Michael Gove and business minister Nick Boles.

Although Massow is the first to declare his interest in being the Conservative candidate, there are other rumours afoot about who else could be in the running. Famed environmentalist and less-than-loyal Conservative MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith, has been urged to run by Boris Johnson. And The Apprentice star and West Ham United vice-chair Karren Brady is thought to have been made a Tory peer to pave her way for a mayoral nomination. I spoke to a CCHQ source about their possible Boris successor, and although they did not confirm or deny Brady's intentions, they revealed: "We will most likely be fielding someone who is not directly involved in politics but is a high-profile supporter of the party. Someone well-known."

And this is Labour's fear. Although the party has a handful of high-profile MPs jostling for the position, including Sadiq Khan, David Lammy and Tessa Jowell, I hear from a Labour London Assembly source that the party fears their mayoral hopefuls may not be enough to counter a Tory "celebrity" candidate. "We've got much better figures than the Tories have at the moment, but the problem for us will be if they decide to go for someone famous, charismatic, well-known in London, rather than a more serious politician, like the ones we'll have. Following Boris, it would clearly work well for them to go for a celebrity candidate."

And with Massow's hat in the ring, it looks like the Tories will be going down this route.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.