How ‘ultimate outsider’ Mozammel Hossain could become Tory choice for London mayor | London

Conservative campaign strategists spy a glimmer of hope as they seek to mitigate the potential loss of seats at the next general election campaign by keeping the coffers topped up.

On top of at least three looming byelections, as well as local elections next spring, they must drum up the funds for 10 mayoral races in May 2024, including the costly battle for London.

The outsider vying for the Tory nomination, Mozammel Hossain, has the support of a notable party donor, Nick Candy. If he is selected by Tory members after a vote across the capital that will conclude on 18 July, three sources said Candy had indicated he would foot the bill for the campaign against Sadiq Khan.

Such a move would help save vital cash for Conservative central headquarters (CCHQ), but the man nicknamed “mysterious Moz” for seeming to spring from nowhere to the final two of the selection process would be a gamble.

“I’m not even sure if he’s stood as a paper candidate for the party before,” one London Tory source said about the practice of candidates standing in no-hope areas before being allowed a shot at such a senior job.

Hossain’s atypical journey to coming within touching distance of the London mayoral race is not the only thing about him that stands out.

He is not London born, but moved to the city aged 21 from a village in Bangladesh. He has a captivating backstory, having left behind, by his own account, a “wooden house, mud floor, tinned roof and a sobbing mother”.

Hossain said he did not own a pair of shoes until he was 16, yet had gone on to become the first Bangladeshi-born criminal barrister queen or king’s counsel.

While the incumbent mayor, Sadiq Khan, has sought to burnish his credentials as the son of a bus driver who grew up in Tooting, south London, Hossain also has an uplifting success story to tell. An ally sums up his argument to Khan as: “Your dad was a bus driver? Moz didn’t even know what a bus was, growing up.”

Hossain has garnered some notable endorsements, the most recent being the former home secretary Priti Patel. He counts Iain Duncan Smith as his “mentor” and the pair grew close because the former Tory leader’s son worked in the same chambers as Hossain.

Longstanding Tory advisers and activists were initially perplexed by his meteoric rise, in which he made the final shortlist by outstripping the Tory MP and London minister Paul Scully and the former No 10 aide Samuel Kasumu.

After Daniel Korski dropped out following a groping allegation, which he denies, Hossain was left to go head-to-head against the London assembly member Susan Hall. London Tory members are being polled for their choice over the following two weeks.

“His story is that of the ultimate outsider,” said James Johnson, a former No 10 pollster.

Hossain’s upbringing, with “barely a hint of a public profile” is “as unstuffy and stereotypically ‘Tory’ a background as one can imagine”, Johnson wrote on the ConservativeHome website.

Johnson said polling by his JL Partners firm showed that Hossain’s background – when presented blindly alongside Korski and Hall – was the top choice at 41%, compared with 21% and 18% for the other two.

With no social media presence until a month ago and rough-and-ready campaign videos featuring him holding a small clip microphone, Hossain wants to show he is different. In a recent interview on GB News, he said the party would struggle if it picked “just another traditional Conservative”.

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has sought to stay out of the race and the pair are not believed to have met before. Some figures close to Sunak voiced antipathy towards Hall, and Hossain’s team believe he has support “at all levels of the party”, including from some of those working in Downing Street.

At the centre of Hossain’s slimmed-down team is Ben Mallet, campaign manager for Shaun Bailey’s ill-fated bid for the mayoralty in 2021. Mallet went to Yale, works for the US political guru Jim Messina’s company, and is said by friends to have an American perspective on political campaigning. “He’s obsessed with the idea of a compelling backstory,” said one.

Mallet’s role on the campaign has raised eyebrows among some, given he was recently handed an OBE by Boris Johnson and featured in the video of a party in CCHQ during Covid restrictions. Two additional staff, helping with digital communications and policy, make up his core team. Also said to be helping on Hossain’s campaign is Malin Bogue, who is seen in the same Partygate video dancing.

Candy, who was a significant funder of the Bailey campaign and has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to CCHQ over the years, was said by insiders to be lined up to do the same if Hossain were selected. He did not respond to questions about whether he was backing and prepared to fund a Conservative mayoral candidate.

The result of the candidate election will be announced on 19 July, allowing the winner nine months to fight to prove the Tories have not given up on gaining power in London again.

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