RORY Stewart warned that political parties are “dragging towards the extremes” as he plots his political path from Cumbria to the capital.

The former Tory cabinet minister announced he was standing down as MP for Penrith and the Border on Friday just hours before revealing he is to stand as a candidate for Mayor of London.

And without party political ties - his Conservative whip removed after he refused to back Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the potential of a no-deal Brexit - he yesterday sought to solidify his position as an independent.

Mr Stewart, whose mayoral candidacy was met with surprise in his current constituency, said mayors who were part of political parties carry the “baggage” of manifestos - instead suggesting he could “really focus” on London’s interests.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think British political parties are dragging towards the extremes. I think there is a gaping hole in the centre.

“I’m obviously not a partisan of Sadiq Khan’s or indeed of any political party - I think mayoral roles can be done very well by independents.

“And I think the danger of mayors being part of political parties is they carry the whole damage and the baggage of those manifestos with them.

“I would like to be a mayor of London that can really focus on London’s interests rather than being tied to Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson.”

In a swipe at the incumbent Mr Khan, Mr Stewart said he did not think he had “made the most” of the role and that it was “not clear” what his dreams are for London.

“I can make the role of mayor something bigger than it’s been in the past - I think there’s huge potential in the role of mayor of London,” Mr Stewart insisted.

“I think it’s something that we see in cities like New York, I don’t think we’ve begun to see the potential of it.”

Over the coming weeks, the 46-year-old intends to emulate his walk across Afghanistan in 2002 - which the ex-diplomat wrote about for a travel book - by touring each borough of London on foot as part of a listening mission before the campaign kicks off.

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