Rory Stewart: I could still work with Boris Johnson despite abandoning the Conservatives

Former Tory minster Rory Stewart has said he can still work with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, despite losing a bitter leadership contest and abandoning the Conservative Party to run for Mayor of London.

The 47-year-old, who lost to Mr Johnson in the Tory leadership election, quit the party before its General Election victory in December.

The pair had clashed during the previous leadership contest, with Mr Stewart accusing the future PM of pursuing a dangerous no deal Brexit.

Despite quitting Westminster politics, Mr Stewart is running as an independent in the upcoming London mayoral election.

Independent candidate for London Mayor Rory Stewart

He accepted he would need to heal old wounds with the Prime Minister, promising to work closely with Downing Street if he wins the keys to City Hall.

Mr Stewart told ITV's The Late Debate: "I would work closely with anyone. The great thing about being an Independent [candidate] is that I will work with Labour boroughs, I will work with Conservative boroughs and I will work with the Conservative Government."

"We need a mayor who takes responsibility. This isn't about party loyalty, this about the future of London."

Rory Stewart in Westminster

The former Penrith MP became an MP in 2010 and has never served as a politician in constituencies in London.

Before then he worked in the civil service, eventually leaving to undertake a two-year trek across middle eastern countries including Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.

He says his experiences in overseas conflicts as well as his time as Prisons Minister under Theresa May's Government have prepared him for the challenges of becoming Mayor of London.

Mr Stewart told ITV he "never really flourished as an MP" but would as a politician in City Hall.

He added: "I'm somebody who throughout my life has helped people by working from the grassroots up; in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in my job in prisons.

"I'm not really somebody who flourished as a Member of Parliament. I'm better at running things, I'm better at helping people through concrete details on the ground. I'm somebody who likes helping people by getting things done."

Current Mayor Sadiq Khan is the favourite to win the contest in May, while Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey and the Liberal Democrats' Siobhan Benita are expected to beat Mr Stewart in the polls.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan

Mr Stewart has already begun campaigning heavily on social media, posting Twitter videos of him trawling around London.

His campaign team hope the strategy, which proved popular during the Conservative leadership campaign, will help further raise his profile ahead of polling day.

The former MP has also announced a series of policies he will introduce if elected, including tripling the number of uniformed officers on London's streets.

He reiterated his promise to resign from the role if he fails to deal with London's violent crime epidemic, promising to oversee a fall in crime figures over the next term.

Mr Stewart added: "It's the greatest city on Earth. There are some basic foundations we need to fix. We need to make London safe again, we need to get the transport going, but it's on those foundations we've so much to be proud of."

"The way that you reduce crime is with uniformed officers on the streets. You need that for the information, for the community relations. Once you've got that you can do an enormous amount.

"The problem if it hasn't been done, if I was Mayor I would do it. I wouldn't blame anyone else, I will resign unless I did it."

But his opponents have accused Mr Stewart of being a career politician, also saying his record of overseeing austerity cuts in Government prove he will fail to invest in the capital's police service.

Siobhan Benita, the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor, said: "He oversaw a Government that cut police numbers, that were behind austerity, and didn't change the problems that we've seen in our prison services."

The Late Debate with Simon Harris, Thursday February 6, at 10:45pm on ITV.