Shaun Bailey’s mayor of London campaign has been plunged into turmoil, with Conservative party headquarters withdrawing funding for his highly regarded press team.
City A.M. understands that the Bailey team is now operating with just one junior press officer and is set to significantly reduce its online campaigning efforts.
The mayoral election, which pits Bailey against incumbent mayor Sadiq Khan, was postponed last May for 12 months due to Covid-19.
Polling figures showed Khan had a 20+ point lead over Bailey throughout last year, with the Labour mayor expected to win in a landslide.
Politico reported this morning that Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) had withdrawn funding for communications firm 5654 & Company to run the Bailey campaign’s media operation.
A CCHQ source told online blog Guido Fawkes that the the media firm, run by highly regarded former government advisor James Starkie, was taken off the campaign due to lack of donor funding and that the party wanted to instead concentrate on other local election campaigns that have a better chance of winning.
A campaign source told Politico: “5654 & Company have played an invaluable role in setting up and training our press operation, as we enter the final stretch we need to focus resources on ground campaigning and digital.”
Questions about Bailey’s future as the Tories’ mayoral candidate were brought to the fore last summer as the Financial Times reported that party donors wanted him replaced with former chancellor Sajid Javid.
Boris Johnson personally rang Bailey after the incident to say he supported him and that he would get more funding from party headquarters.
Starkie and his team came in last August in an attempt to revive the struggling campaign.
A Conservative part spokesperson said: “Operational and fundraising decisions are a matter for the Shaun Bailey campaign, which continues to have our full support.
“Shaun Bailey will make a fantastic Mayor of London, and will start fixing Sadiq Khan’s abysmal failures on tackling crime, building affordable homes and managing TfL’s finances on day one.”