Rory Stewart on the campaign trail for the Conservative Party leadership in June. Photo: Luke Dray/Getty Images

Rory Stewart, who challenged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the leadership of the Conservative Party earlier this year, announced Friday that he is leaving Parliament and the Conservatives to enter the 2020 race for mayor of London as an independent.

The big picture: Stewart's surprise announcement comes after he gained something of a cult following with an unorthodox leadership campaign, though he ultimately finished 5th. After Johnson expelled him and 20 other MPs from the party last month for defying him over Brexit, he floated the idea of a new centrist party along the lines of French President Emmanuel Macron's En Marche.

  • Stewart rose to national prominence during the leadership campaign by touring the country and blitzing social media, often personally visiting areas to meet with people using the hashtag #RoryWalks.
  • That concept stems from his pre-parliamentary career, when he wrote a book about his solo walk across Afghanistan in early 2002. His resume also includes tutoring Princes William and Harry and serving as a coalition governor in Iraq in 2003 at age 30.

The state of play: London's current mayor, Labour's Sadiq Khan, is seeking re-election. He heads into May's election as the heavy favorite, though his approval rating has fallen sharply. Khan's primary challenger is Conservative Shaun Bailey, a London Assembly member, who has faced controversy over his past comments on Hindus and Muslims.

  • London's mayoral ballot requires voters to select their top 2 choices with the winner selected via an automatic runoff between the top 2 candidates.
  • Stewart's centrist candidacy hinges on the notion that he'd be the clear second choice for a broad church of voters across the political spectrum, allowing him to pull out a win.

The bottom line: With no clear path for Stewart in Parliament under Johnson, this move — undoubtedly a longshot — will allow him to stay nationally relevant and continue to test his unorthodox campaigning style.

  • Should he succeed, Johnson has proven that the London mayorship can act as a viable stepping stone to 10 Downing Street.

Go deeper: Stewart sat down with Axios last month to discuss his fears about the "breaking" of British politics

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 p.m. ET: 32,694,155 — Total deaths: 991,273 — Total recoveries: 22,575,658Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 p.m. ET: 7,074,155 — Total deaths: 204,461 — Total recoveries: 2,750,459 — Total tests: 100,492,536Map.
  3. States: New York daily cases top 1,000 for first time since June — U.S. reports over 55,000 new coronavirus cases.
  4. Health: The long-term pain of the mental health pandemicFewer than 10% of Americans have coronavirus antibodies.
  5. Business: Millions start new businesses in time of coronavirus.
  6. Education: Summer college enrollment offers a glimpse of COVID-19's effect.
Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

What they're saying: Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court

Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden of the White House on Sept. 26. Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Democratic and Republican lawmakers along with other leading political figures reacted to President Trump's Saturday afternoon nomination of federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

What they're saying: "President Trump could not have made a better decision," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. "Judge Amy Coney Barrett is an exceptionally impressive jurist and an exceedingly well-qualified nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States."

Amy Coney Barrett: "Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me"

Trump introduces Amy Coney Barrett as nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo: Olivier Douleiry/Getty Images

In speaking after President Trump announced her as the Supreme Court nominee to replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett said on Saturday she will be "mindful" of those who came before her on the court if confirmed.

What she's saying: Barrett touched on Ginsburg's legacy, as well as her own judicial philosophy and family values. "I love the United States and I love the United States Constitution," she said. "I'm truly humbled at the prospect of serving on the  Supreme Court."

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