Race to be Tory mayoral candidate heats up as Boris critic Andrew Boff claims grassroots support

A longstanding critic of Boris Johnson has launched his sixth bid to become the Tory mayoral candidate by claiming the biggest backing of grassroots activists.

Andrew Boff said he had secured the backing of 50 councillors across 15 boroughs as he formally entered the race to secure his party’s nomination.

Recently reappointed as chairman of the London Assembly, the cross-party body that scrutinises the mayor, Mr Boff is a City Hall veteran who has served as an assembly member since 2008.

He broke ranks to call for Mr Johnson consider resigning over the partygate scandal months before the prime minister was eventually forced to quit Downing Street.

Supporters said Mr Boff’s backing from Tory councillors put him ahead in the race to become the party’s mayoral candidate.

Others who have declared include fellow assembly members Susan Hall and Nick Rogers, and Samuel Kasumu, a councillor in Hertforshire, who has the appointed another assembly member, Keith Prince, as his running mate.

Mr Boff sits on the left of the party. He was the first person in London to enter a same-sex civil partnership in 2005.

He vowed to scrap the forthcoming UIez expansion to the Greater London boundary, to boost local policing and build more family homes.

He came second behind Shaun Bailey in the Tory selection process for its 2021 mayoral candidate. Mr Boff has also failed to secure his pary’s mayoral nomination for the 2000, 2004, 2008, 2016 and 2021 elections.

He said: “I will beat Sadiq Khan. He’s lost Londoners’ trust and failed to deliver on his promises. Too many Londoners feel unsafe on our streets and struggle to rent, let alone buy a home in our city.

“As mayor, I will take responsibility and focus tirelessly on driving down crime and building the quality homes London needs.

“I strongly believe the Conservative Party can win big again in London. We have diligent Members of Parliament and assembly members, hard-working councillors, and passionate party members, and we share Londoners’ aspirational, entrepreneurial and global spirit.”

Asked why he believed he could secure his party’s nomination at the sixth time of asking, he said: “I don’t think people punish persistence. I think it’s a quality that we need to value.”

Speaking to the Standard, Mr Boff said there were “lots of wounds that need healing in London” and pledged to “bring London together”.

He said: “Lots of division has been sewn over the past seven years of Sadiq Khan’s mayoralty and I want to heal those. Less of the divisveness and more of the unity.

“My promise to my party members is: if you select me as candidate, I will beat Sadiq Khan - handsomely.”

Despite previous critisms of Mr Johnson, he described him on Friday as “the premier ambassador for the Conservative party”.

Mr Boff said: “He presents the message in such an easy and articulate way. He will continue to be part of the Conservative party, contributing a lot.”

Mr Boff, the son of a police officer and NHS worker, was born in a council house in Hillingdon. He eventually became council leader. He has also led the City Hall Conservatives.

He attended a state school and didn’t go to university. He worked as a dishwasher, barman and labourer after leaving school before discovering his passion for computers and going on to set up his own business.

He said of the battle against his assembly colleagues: “All those people who are standing are my mates. It’s a very peculiar time in the party when you select a candidate because you are up against your friends. All of them would be great candidates for mayor.

“I have over 50 councillors backing me. I am the big hitter.”

Applications close on May 24. A winner - chosen by London Tory party members - will be unveiled on July 19. The next mayoral elections are on May 2 next year.