he race to become the Tory mayoral candidate for London took a shock turn on Sunday afternoon when the apparent frontrunner failed to make it onto the party’s shortlist.
But Mr Scully failed to make it onto the shortlist of three – with party grandees instead choosing Susan Hall, Daniel Korski and Mozammel Hossain.
There have been suggestions that Mr Scully’s role in an unpopular Government would have been a factor.
Ms Hall is a serving member of the London Assembly and a former leader of the City Hall Conservatives, in which she has sought to hold Mr Khan to account.
A former leader of Harrow council, she is the only one of the three candidates to currently hold elected office, and has a reputation for “plain speaking”.
She told the Standard: “I am honoured to have been shortlisted and enormously grateful for everyone’s support.
“I am the candidate Sadiq Khan fears the most, because I will expose him, defeat him and clean up the mess he has left behind. You are safer with Susan as your candidate.”
Mr Korski is a former Downing Street aide to David Cameron who has become a tech entrepreneur.
In an interview with the Standard, he proposed imposing a tourist tax on hotel rooms to help fund the Metropolitan police. He has also suggested replacing the Ulez with a “pay per mile” road pricing system.
By 6pm, the shortlist had yet to be confirmed by the Tory party. But Mr Korski told the Standard: “I am delighted and it shows there is real support in the party for working to restore the ‘London Dream’ and offering a different vision of City Hall.”
Mr Hossain is a KC – a senior barrister – who until now was almost wholly unknown as a potential mayoral candidate. He has no obvious social media profile but is thought to be liked by Downing Street.
Sources told the Standard there was considerable surprise at the decision not to include Mr Scully – a frontbench Government minister – on the shortlist.
One said the decision was “very odd” and that “a lot of people are upset with this result”. There is concern that Mr Hossain in particular is “unknown” to London voters.
When Mr Scully entered the race last month, he was regarded as the first “big hitter” to throw his hat into the ring. He vowed to scrap the Ulez expansion – which is due to happen on August 29 – on his first day in office.
He claimed to have the greatest level of support among London MPs and Tory councillors.
Others who failed to make the shortlist include the veteran London Assembly member Andrew Boff and Samuel Kasumu, a former aide to Boris Johnson. Mr Kasumu said he had even failed to make the long-list of candidates invited to b e interviewed by party officials on Sunday.
Whoever is chosen to compete against Mr Khan faces a considerable challenge. Mr Khan was re-elected in 2021 with a record number of votes for a sitting mayor when he defeated Tory candidate Shaun Bailey in the second round run-off.
However the voting system in next year’s mayoral poll is being changed to the conventional first past the post system – meaning Mr Khan cannot rely on having his majority boosted by second preference votes from Londoners who voted for the Lib-Dem or Green candidate in the first instance.
Other factors potentially counting against Mr Khan are voter fatigue – he is seeking a record third term – and the scale of opposition to the Greater London Ulez ezpansion.