Tory London mayoral hopeful Daniel Korski has dropped out of the race to take on Sadiq Khan for City Hall following an allegation of historic sexual assault.
Korski, who has seen support drain away after TV producer Daisy Goodwin accused him of groping her breast during a meeting in No10 a decade ago, announced the move today.
In a statement on Twitter he said: “I have decided, with a heavy heart, to withdraw from the Conservative mayoral contest.
“I categorically deny the allegation against me. Nothing was ever put to me formally ten years ago. Nor seven years ago when the allegation was alluded to. No investigation has ever taken place. I have been clear I would welcome and constructively participate in any investigation.
“However, the pressure on my family because of this false and unproven allegation and the inability to get a hearing for my message of ‘The London Dream’ makes it impossible for my campaign to carry on.”
He added: “The news agenda is becoming a distraction from the race and the Conservative Party.
“I wish the excellent remaining contestants well and I know the eventual candidate will beat Sadiq Khan and offer the kind of rejuvenation London so desperately needs.”
Goodwin told the PA news agency: “I am glad he has withdrawn – it shows that women can speak out against misbehaviour in the workplace and be believed.
“If I was in the ethics department of the Cabinet Office, I would be wondering why such behaviour went unchecked in Downing Street.”
Korski’s withdrawal means the Tory selection process is now a two-horse race between former City Hal Conservative group leader Susan Hall and relative unknown Bangladesh-born barrister Mozammel Hossain.
Tech minister and minister for London Paul Scully – the original favourite – failed to make the shortlist in a shock upset.
Hall said: “Daniel fought a hard campaign with lots of fresh ideas and I appreciate his contribution to the debate.
“The allegations against him are serious and it is right that they are investigated in the proper way. My focus remains on making my own positive case to members and Londoners in this contest.”
The Conservative Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but had previously said it would not be investigating the allegation, while Downing Street said it was a political matter.
Hossain and City Hall have been approached for comment.