‘I believe Mayor Khan is very beatable’: Paul Scully enters London Tory mayoral race

The race to be the Tory mayoral candidate ramped up on Thursday as Government front-bencher Paul Scully threw his hat into the ring.

Mr Scully, the Minister for London, is the first MP to declare a wish to challenge LabourmayorSadiq Khan, who is seeking a record third term next May.

He is the seventh person to publicly seek the Tory nomination but arguably the first political “big hitter”. He claimed he had the support of a “significant” number of MPs and councillors.

He dismissed suggestions he was not well enough known to defeat Mr Khan, whose victories in 2016 and 2021 have come with record majorities.

“This isn’t a celebrity election,” Mr Scully told the Standard. “Celebrity status doesn’t get houses built, doesn’t get transport moving, doesn’t make people safe. That is what I’m focusing on.

“I have delivered in four different departments in Government. I am about action, about changing the malaise we have from a mayor who is just deflecting, not delivering.”

Mr Scully, 55, has been MP for Sutton and Cheam since 2015. He is also the tech minister.

He said his time as Minister for London felt like a “three-year apprenticeship” to become mayor. In a personal attack on Mr Khan, he described him as a “self-serving incumbent” who was crushing aspirations underfoot and who was using the mayoralty as a “platform to virtue signal”.

Mr Scully, in a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said he would “pause” being Minister for London, in line with advice he had sought from the propriety and ethics team in the Cabinet Office, to ensure he remained within the Ministerial Code.

He will stand down from the post if he is selected as Tory mayoral candidate.

He told LBC he had spoken with Boris Johnson, the last Tory to serve as London mayor. “He first appointed me as Minister for London, “ Mr Scully said. “I know he has every faith in me. If he endorses me that would be fantastic.”

He said outer London residents were “frustrated” with Mr Khan’s proposed expansion of the Ulez to the Greater London boundary, and vowed to scrap it on “day one”.

Instead, he would seek to improve air quality on the Tube and complete the electrification of the capital’s 9,000-vehicle bus fleet.

He said: “For some people, the Ulez expansion is the first thing they have seen him do. They clearly don’t like what they are seeing.”

He said the Met police and London Fire Brigade had to be brought out of special measures and more family homes were needed to avoid Londoners “being priced out of London”. He railed against what he called the “high-rise jungle” threat from new housing.

Previously Mr Scully said he would only stand if he felt he was the “best placed person” to take on Mr Khan.

Other candidates include London Assembly members Susan Hall, Andrew Boff and Nick Rogers, and former Downing Street aides Daniel Korski and Samuel Kasumu. Duwayne Brooks, who was with Stephen Lawrence when he was attacked, has also said he will run.

Mr Scully said: “There are some really good ideas coming forward from my colleagues but I am best-placed because I’ve had three years as Minister for London, I’ve had 25 years campaigning round every single borough.

“I understand inner London, having got hospitality and retail open again after covid. But I understand outer London, being an outer London MP.”

He denied he was only standing because he faced losing his constituency, where he holds a 8,351 majority, to the Lib-Dems at the next general election.

“I have always treated my constituency as marginal, in the same way as I’ll treat the mayoral elections,” he said. “They are both winnable.

“My inbox is full of Ulez, transport, crime, where the issues sit with the mayor, not with central Government.”

He backed Brexit but believes this will not count against him. “I was always a pragmatic Brexiteer,” he said.

He claimed Mr Khan was a “slick politician but he’s not a great leader for the city”, contrasting him unfavourably with mayors such as Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester and Andy Street in West Midlands.

He said: “I believe Mayor Khan is very beatable because of his inaction.”

Mr Scully moved to London when he was 19. He ran small businesses for 25 years before becoming an MP. His father came to the UK from Burma and worked as an engineer.

In a dig at Mr Khan’s own back story, he added: “I’m sorry he wasn’t a bus driver.

“Having a Burmese dad does not build a single house, it doesn’t get transport working and it doesn’t make us feel safer. But I do share the values as well as the issues and concerns of true Londoners.”

A Labour source said: “Londoners know exactly what the Tories are about – a cost-of-living crisis, soaring housing costs, huge cuts to public services, and opposing measures to clean up our dirty air.

“Despite this Sadiq is getting on with building a better London for everyone – reducing violent crime, cleaning up the air, delivering a record number of council homes and providing free school meals for all London children from September.”

Tory nominations close next Wednesday, May 24. A shortlist of up to three candidates will be announced, with the winner due to be unveiled on July 19.