Politics

Rory Stewart’s kipping on Londoners’ sofas on the Mayor campaign trail

The Independent candidate has promised to bring a “sleeping bag and a box of chocolates” in the bizarre stunt

Rory Stewart Foreign and Commonwealth Office Flickr

Rory Stewart is hoping voters won’t sleep on what he is offering in his campaign to be London Mayor – by going round their house to stay with them.

The Independent candidate today launched his Come Kip With Me initiative, asking Londoners to get in touch to offer him a place to stay. In return, former Tory Penrith MP Stewart has promised to come round with a “sleeping bag and a box of chocolates”.

In a video announcing the plan, Stewart said: “Please have me to stay. It’s weird but the way that Mayors get to know their cities is by literally walking through every one of the 32 boroughs.”

Stewart, of course, would know that better than anyone else – in the days before his political career took off, he embarked on a two-year walk across Afghanistan that he turned into best-selling book The Places in Between.

His walks around London have already inspired a campaign where tackling rough sleeping is being billed as a priority. Stewart has pledged to halt rising rough sleeping numbers and halve the number of people sleeping on the streets by the end of his first term, if elected in the May vote, in 2024.

To do this, Stewart has vowed to launch 1,000 Housing First places within two years of taking office – and points to his experience of the approach in rehousing prisoners from Bristol, Leeds and Pentonville prisons when he was Prisons Minister.

He is also promising to set up a Rough Sleepers Unit modelled on the one set by New Labour in 1999 that will provide “real-time data” on performance across London and employ 30 Mayoral Stewards to work in areas of greatest need in the English capital.

All these policies have been informed by time spent with charities, outreach workers and rough sleepers over the last few months, claims Stewart.

“Every Londoner will be painfully aware of the tragic rise in the number of people sleeping rough on our streets. But the Mayor has not got a grip on it. Sadiq Khan has simply sprinkled some money here, and some hope there – not properly grabbing and addressing the issue.

“The level of rough sleeping in this city is a situation that shames us all, but no-one more than the Mayor – who has not taken sufficient action on this issue.

“Both national Government and the Mayor need to step up, because with energy and focus we can bring these numbers down – and if I was elected I wouldn’t rest until I did.

“People sleeping rough deserve better, London deserves better, it’s time for less politics, more action.”

Stewart’s plans have received the backing of Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes, who applauded his focus on Housing First and called for commitment to a pan-London strategy that would at least 2,300 tenancies. “This is critical to ending rough sleeping,” he said.

The Big Issue will also be quizzing Stewart on his London plans when we join him on, you guessed it, a walk. Check out next week’s magazine for more.

Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
All of Keir Starmer’s U-turns and abandoned policy pledges, from child benefits to private schools
Keir Starmer, U-turn, broken promises
Labour

All of Keir Starmer’s U-turns and abandoned policy pledges, from child benefits to private schools

Green Party leader Carla Denyer on climate crisis, fighting for trans rights and beating Labour
Politics

Green Party leader Carla Denyer on climate crisis, fighting for trans rights and beating Labour

Are we headed for a low-turnout general election? Why poverty and mistrust mean voters staying home
Rishi Sunak, general election, low turnout
Politics

Are we headed for a low-turnout general election? Why poverty and mistrust mean voters staying home

'Real change is essential': Our blueprint for change shows how Sunak and Starmer can end poverty for good
Conservatives' Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer of Labour went head to head in party conference speeches but which one tackled the housing crisis head on
Big Issue

'Real change is essential': Our blueprint for change shows how Sunak and Starmer can end poverty for good

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know