Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey hopes to keep his place on the London Assembly if he is unable to win the top job at City Hall, City A.M. can reveal.
Parties in the London Assembly are currently selecting candidates for the next election, which is due to take place in 2020.
Bailey is among a number of London-wide list members who are given seats in the Assembly proportional to the vote share of their party.
One source inside City Hall suggested that Bailey's decision to stand in the London Assembly elections would send out the message that he was "not a serious contender" to take on Sadiq Khan in 2020's mayoral race. Another warned that Bailey "may want to keep his options open" and that it would be a "great shame to lose him".
A Conservative spokesperson said: “Shaun’s desire to serve Londoners is not contingent on being mayor. There is honour in service at all levels, whether that be as mayor, as an assembly member holding the mayor to account, as a borough councillor, or a member of parliament.”
Bailey has attracted controversy since he was selected in as the Tory candidate to take on Khan in the 2020 election in September.
Last month, a pamphlet Bailey wrote for the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) think tank in 2005 resurfaced. In it he argued that multiculturalism "robs Britain of its community" and that accommodating Muslims and Hindus would turn Britain into a "crime-riddled cess pool".
Bailey's language earned comparison with the 2016 mayoral campaign, in which the Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith was accused of using "nasty and divisive" tactics by sending Hindu voters leaflets that suggested Khan would tax their jewellery. He also accused his opponent of giving a “platform, oxygen and cover to people who are extremists”.
The CPS defended Bailey and said his comments quoted in the press were a "mischaracterisation" of the point he was making about "the importance of Christian faith and values in building strong communities".
Bailey is the first member of the GLA conservatives to run for mayor while seeking re-election to the Assembly.
A source close to Bailey said this was "no different" to Khan remaining an MP when he successfully stood for mayor in 2016.