Long read: Harold Hill’s Shaun Bailey on the Covid-19 crisis and another year of campaigning to be London mayor

Mayor of London candidate Shaun Bailey. Picture: Ken Mears

Mayor of London candidate Shaun Bailey. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Ken Mears

In a world without the coronavirus outbreak, Shaun Bailey could be Mayor of London right now.

Instead he is beginning another year of campaigning in his bid to unseat Sadiq Khan after the mayoral election, due to be held last week, was delayed.

Rather than living through the drama of election day, Mr Bailey is helping to home school his children - something he admits is proving quite tricky.

“The toughest thing is home schooling. My eldest, 13, has taken to it but my 10-year-old is distracted by being at home.

“I’ve turned into a bit of an art teacher, do a bit of maths as well. I have had a crazy two years running for mayor so to spend this time at home has been very nice for me. The novelty hasn’t worn off yet.”

Mr Bailey, from Harold Hill, says he “loves” living in Havering. He moved to the borough after growing up in west London and entered politics after being a youth worker.

“For me and my family, this is where we’ve put down roots, this is the first time we have been able to buy a house. This is our area now. I love it here. The people are nice, the area is nice.”

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He has been a Londonwide assembly member for four years and was announced as the Conservtive Party candidate to become Mayor of London in September 2018.

Independent candidate Rory Stewart recently announced he was pulling out of the race after the one-year postponement and Mr Bailey said his wife supported him to continue his campaign.

“I saw it (the election delay) coming. When it happened, on a personal level, it was like ‘wow another whole year of this’. I came home to my wife and she said ‘in for a penny, in for a pound. Go for it.’

“Once I knew that my family was still behind me, of course I wanted to do it.”

Social distancing means that the rules of election campaigning will look different in the near future – Mr Bailey revealed he has already attended a number of ‘town hall’ meetings on video conferencing tool Zoom where he has answered questions.

“An extra year gives me a much better chance. It’s an extra year to critique the things the mayor hasn’t done, an extra year to get my name out there. The only problem is I genuinely think London needs a new mayor.”

He is keen to avoid “Punch and Judy” politics in his bid to defeat Mr Khan and wants to help during the coronavirus crisis.

“This isn’t about points scoring politics anymore, it’s about helping the mayor do the job the best he can because it’s life and death.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson gave an address to the nation on Sunday, May 10 in which he outlined a plan to gradually ease the lockdown restrictions that were introduced in March.

Speaking before this announcement, Mr Bailey argued that politicians need to follow the science when considering how to lift the measures.

“If the science says let’s not do it, then let’s wait. I know it’s frustrating, I know people are worrying about losing their businesses. But there’s only one thing more important than your business and that’s the life of your family.”

Asked for a message to businesses with employees returning to work, he said: “Any business you have, the biggest asset is the people. So you’ve got to protect them. Secondly, do they have to come back to work?

“Whatever your circumstances, give them the mask because it stops them spreading it.”

Mr Bailey called for the mayor to do more on personal protective equipment, adding that bus staff are particularly at risk from infection.

But he reserved praise for the efforts of Queen’s Hospital, in Romford, during the outbreak.

“When we look back on Covid, we will see that of course there are a few things they could have done better,” he said. “But their initial response was quite good and robust.

“It’s always going to be tough because we are an area, from what I can see, that has been quite affected by the outbreak.”

He called for people to spend their money in their nearest town, such as Romford, while they are working from home and feels there is a greater community spirit in the town than most places.

He added: “I genuinely believe people are taking this seriously. I went to Tesco the other day and there was a massive queue and nobody grumbled. All stood there, eight to ten metres apart, and it was quite a friendly environment.”

Polling day has been rescheduled for May 2021.

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