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28 June 2023

Could Sadiq Khan benefit from another scandal-hit Tory mayoral campaign?

An allegation of sexual assault against a Conservative candidate for London mayor, Daniel Korski, threatens to overshadow the race before it has even begun.

By Freddie Hayward

The race to become the Conservative candidate for next year’s London mayoral election has changed abruptly after one contender, Daniel Korski, was accused of groping a female TV producer while he worked in No 10. Korski categorically denies the allegations.

The accusation against Korski has cast doubt over the Conservative Party’s selection process for its candidates. Korski, who was David Cameron’s deputy head of policy from 2013-16, has said he told Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) about the allegation (which was first made in 2017) but he still progressed on to the shortlist. That was perhaps partly because there was no formal complaint and therefore no formal investigation for CCHQ to consider.

But now the accuser, the TV screenwriter and producer Daisy Goodwin, has emailed the Cabinet Office to make a formal complaint and has said she’s happy to make a complaint to CCHQ. On the BBC this morning, Goodwin also intimated that other women had approached her since she made her allegation. For now, Korski, who is popular with many Tory MPs, or at least was before the allegation, is continuing with his campaign.

There are two other people in the race to become the Conservative candidate: Susan Hall, a former councillor and party leader in City Hall, and Mozammel Hossain, a criminal barrister and relative unknown who has the backing of Iain Duncan Smith. The winner is due to be announced on the 19 July following a ballot of party members.

The scandal undermines the Conservatives’ effort to unseat the incumbent, Sadiq Khan (who I recently interviewed), even though he is vulnerable on several fronts. His first preference vote dropped from 44 per cent in the 2016 election to 40 per cent in 2021. Khan’s decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone is proving controversial, and the Metropolitan Police has been hit by a string of scandals under his watch. On top of that, Khan is struggling in the polls on a wide range of policy issues, as I pointed out on the podcast recently.

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In both of his previous elections, Khan benefited from weak, scandal-hit opponents. Will his luck continue?

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; subscribe to it on Substack here.

[See also: Is Labour getting tired of Sadiq Khan?]

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