Sir Digby denies Tory mayor approach

A Labour minister has denied claims he considered standing as the Conservatives candidate for the London mayoral election.

The Tories claim Sir Digby Jones approached them to challenge Ken Livingstone for mayor of London.

But Sir Digby – who was brought into Gordon Brown’s “government of all the talents” as a trade minister – said the Conservatives approached him.

He insists he rejected the offer when David Cameron said he would need to join the Tory party.

Sir Digby, who is set to join Labour peers in the House of Lords, told the BBC he sounded out the idea of standing for mayor as an independent candidate among his business contacts.

He claimed Mr Cameron contacted him over the May Bank Holiday weekend, around a week after the former BBC director general Greg Dyke rejected the Tory’s approaches.

The old-Etonian Tory leader said it would be a “fabulous” idea for him to stand on a Conservative ticket against Mr Livingstone, but he would have to join the Tory party.

Sir Digby said he told him “‘categorically not’ and on that basis, it all went very quiet”.

The Conservatives have played down the apparent snub, insisting Sir Digby contacted them first.

The party has struggled to find a high profile candidate for London mayor, ahead of the close of nominations on July 16.

Meanwhile, the allegation Sir Digby may have considered standing as a Tory candidate will not please Labour backbenchers.

Many have expressed concerns at the way in which the former CBI head was parachuted in to government.

The industry leader said he wants to make the party “less enthral to the unions”.

He has refused to join the Labour party but has accepted the Labour whip in the House of Lords.