This week, I went to visit a mother in a comfortable home in a quiet south London street. She had lost her son. He had popped out to buy a lollipop for his two-year-old daughter (they were preparing a Sunday meal together). On the way back, he was stabbed in the chest. Together, we watched a video of her son in a trampoline park, somersaulting perfectly from trampoline to trampoline.
Then I met another mother, a mile away, whose 24-year-old had also been killed and left on the roadside. And at dinner, three miles further north, I asked the 19-year-old sitting on my left how many siblings he had. “I had three, now I have one.” Both his brothers had been killed in knife attacks.
Five years ago, I remember voters saying that they wished for more disagreement in British politics. It was impossible, they felt, to tell the difference between one politician and another. Blair, Cameron, Clegg – all said the same things. Some Conservatives claimed to be nostalgic for the days of Tony Benn. “I disagreed with him,” they said, “but at least he had conviction.”
Rory Stewart: We've stopped expecting much from politicians, and this is the perfect ecosystem for chancers to thrive
This sorry election campaign is finally done. The end was depressing enough for most of us to obliterate the memory of the beginning. Who remembers now that a cabinet minister was forced to resign and the deputy leader of the Labour Party retired?
For ten years I’ve been knocking on doors – many thousands of doors – asking people what they want. The question is easy – and central to our democracy. But the answers are hard, and hard to act on.
Sometimes people don’t want to answer because they are in the middle of cooking, or sleeping after a night shift, or are not wearing any clothes. Most, although happy to talk, are uncertain how to describe exactly what they want – in their complicated lives where so much is simultaneously going wrong and right. Put on the spot, standing on the threshold, minds go blank.
Rory Stewart’s Diary: Running for London mayor, life in a gang, and getting coached by Dominic Cummings
People have often told me to keep a diary – how much they regret not having done so and how wonderful it would be in old age to be reminded of the past. And I have tried, dutifully. There must be a dozen glossy notebooks each beginning on 1 January with a five-page entry, and finishing a few pages later. It is a real waste of a notebook.
A General Election is coming, and I am leaving parliament to run as an independent candidate for mayor of London.
I am running to be mayor and not for parliament because I find Westminster increasingly depressing as it loses more and more of its meaning and purpose in stale divisive rows. And I believe that in London, we could show how to do democracy better.
Article first published in The Observer on 6 October 2019.
I’m still not sure whether I left the Conservative party, or whether it left me. But I am so relieved that I don’t have to pretend to be a part of a political party any more. And even more that I am running to be mayor of London, rather than a Member of Parliament. I only hope I have got out before it is too late. I feel I have become steadily stupider over the last nine years of being a politician, and was beginning to lose the ability to listen, to think and to trust – losing all the skills that you need to actually change the world.
I am writing to tell you — the readers of the Evening Standard — first that I am running to be Mayor of London, as an independent candidate . And I would like your vote so that we can transform this great capital — the most intricate, diverse and astonishing city on the planet, the financial centre of the world, and the cradle of our democracy — together.