Is George Osborne’s Evening Standard set to endorse Rory Stewart for London mayor?

Rory Stewart was recently spotted in the paper’s Kensington offices, prompting rumours of a forthcoming endorsement.

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Is George Osborne’s Evening Standard poised to endorse former Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart for London mayor?

Stewart was spotted in the paper's offices a few weeks ago, prompting speculation that the London title, edited by the former Conservative chancellor, will endorse him in next May's mayoral race. The former Conservative leadership candidate, who is running for the mayoralty as an independent after resigning as an MP and a Conservative member, was smuggled in past staff members at the paper’s Northcliffe House offices in Kensington, sources say.

The endorsement would be a significant blow to Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate, who has enjoyed positive coverage from the paper and who received their endorsement during the Tory selection contest in September 2018. The Evening Standard editorial at the time declared that Bailey “has been both the embodiment and the standard-bearer of Tory modernisation”. Bailey has since failed to gain momentum in the polls, however, and faced accusations of “the worst kind of casual sexism and misogyny” after controversial comments about abortion services and discipline in schools.

When Stewart unexpectedly threw his hat into the ring for mayor back in October, the Evening Standard wrote a positive editorial about his candidacy: “Let’s face it, neither of [Stewart’s] principal opponents have yet managed to generate much excitement about the coming mayoral election. Today’s declaration has electrified it.” It added, however, that it would “need to hear much more in the coming months about why his answers are any better than the ones we’ve heard before.”

The move would be the latest in a string of interesting, and seemingly contradictory, endorsements by the paper during Osborne’s editorship. This year it “wished the Liberal Democrats well” in the European elections and endorsed Boris Johnson for the Conservative leadership. The paper has yet to endorse a party for the general election. Osborne wrote recently in the Spectator that he was considering voting for former Liberal Democrat candidate and former Tory minister Sam Gyimah in Kensington. He has since written in an editor's reply in the Standard that he will be voting Conservative.

Ailbhe Rea is political correspondent at the New Statesman