A Conservative in the running to be the party’s nominee for London mayor has admitted he is a “passionate Remainer”. Lawyer Mozammel Hossain has told party activists at the Tories’ first mayoral hustings that he is “not a Brexiteer”.
It is the latest blow in a much-criticised fiasco that landed voters in London with what many considered to be a poor choice of virtually anonymous candidates to try to seize back the mayoralty for the Tories from Labour’s Sadiq Khan. Observers were heard to wonder how Paul Scully, the “amiable and diligent” minister for London, was overlooked.
Mr Hossain is one of the three contenders to have made it on the shortlist to be the Tory candidate to take on Sadiq Khan in next May’s election. The criminal defence barrister who grew up in Bangladesh is regarded as the wild card in the race, securing a place on the shortlist without much advance publicity. It wasn’t until a couple of days ago that he joined Twitter and launched a campaign website, something that has earned him the title “Mysterious Moz”.
READ MORE: Inside the Tory mayoral selection ‘clusterf***’ that has handed London to Khan
Appearing at the hustings in Westminster on Friday night, Mr Hossain indicated that he supported Britain’s membership of the EU.
Responding to a question about support for businesses in London, he said: “In terms of the City, you talk to them, they will tell you a lot of very big businesses aren’t listing on the London Stock Exchange anymore because of the problem with the liquidity, the lack of liquidity. How do you solve that? — You have to work with the Government.
“Look, I’m a passionate Remainer, OK? I’m not a Brexiteer. But we can’t debate that anymore. There are opportunities we can create. How can we do that? Deregulate. Not crazy, but in a sort of sensible way. So that’s what you can do. That’s what you can do to attract big businesses.”
He said that big business mainly wanted to be “left alone”, while he would focus on City Hall’s three main areas of power to make the London a good place to work and live — “policing, housing and transport”. He added: “If you fix those three things, everything else will fall into place.”
In the 2016 referendum, London voted 60-40 to remain in the EU, although Conservative voters in the capital were believed to have been more in favour of Leave.
For the ticket in next May’s election, Mr Hossain is up against Susan Hall, a London Assembly member, and Daniel Korski, a former adviser to David Cameron. Mr Korski was also a Remainer, helping to run the “Stronger In” campaign. However, he has insisted he is “not a Remoaner”.
In an interview with TalkTV last month, he said: “I said at the time that we should have stayed in the EU, that’s of course what I believed then, it’s what I believe now, but I don’t think we should question the democratic will, we should move forward and build that future outside of the EU. I don’t want a second referendum.”
Susan Hall is the only Brexiter, and contributed to the now-defunct news website Brexit Central. She has been known to attack Sadiq Khan at City Hall for “obsessing over Brexit”. She became a member of the London Assembly in June 2017, replacing Kemi Badenoch when the latter was elected MP for Saffron Walden.
The winning candidate will be announced on July 19.