The ex-Tory cabinet minister, 46, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme to discuss his mayoral campaign.
However Today presenter Justin Webb, 58, argued that by Mr Stewart standing in the mayoral race it was not ‘really 2020’.
Mr Stewart is up against Conservative Party candidate Shaun Bailey and member of the Labour Party
The ex-Tory cabinet minister Rory Stewart, 46, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme to discuss his mayoral campaign
Mr Webb said: ‘You mention that you are proud of the diversity of the mayoral race in London, you are a white guy and old-Etonian – its not really 2020 is it, really, to be challenging a black man who is the conservative candidate and the Muslim mayor.’
Mr Stewart added: ‘You are absolutely right it is a fantastically diverse group of candidates which reflects a diverse city.’
‘And you are saying don’t elect them, elect a white Etonian,’ Mr Webb said.
BBC Radio 4 Today presenter Justin Webb, 58 said: ‘You are a white guy and old-Etonian – its not really 2020 is it?’
The ex-minister said: ‘I’m definitely not saying that.’
‘It kind of is what you are saying isn’t it because you are standing,’ Mr Webb retorted.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan would stand against Mr Stewart in the 2020
Mr Stewart said: ‘I am saying that you should not be voting for me on the basis of my ethnicity but on the basis of the fact that I feel that as an ex-cabinet minister, as someone who has run for big projects internationally, as somebody who can get things done and has proved in government that I can turn things round I can make the role of mayor something bigger than it has been in the past – I think there is huge potential in the role of mayor of London.
Mr Stewart said London Mayor Sadiq Khan had ‘made the most’ of the role and that it was ‘not clear’ what his dreams are for the capital.
And over the coming weeks, the Remain campaigner 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.
‘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.
Conservative Party candidate Shaun Bailey who is a candidate for the 2020 London mayoral election
‘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.’
Mr Stewart insisted that he sought to position himself as the London mayoral candidate without ties to either Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson.
Twitter users were quick to call out BBC presenter Justin Webb and claimed ethnicity should not be an issue
He added how mayors who were part of political parties carried ‘baggage’ of their manifestos and suggested he could ‘really focus’ on London’s interests ‘rather than being tied to Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson.’
London Mayoral candidates Rory Stewart and Shaun Bailey on Victoria Tower Gardens, London
Mr Stewart audaciously revealed live on stage on Friday that he was resigning as a member of the Conservative Party and as an MP, and later announced his intention to stand as an independent candidate in next year’s race to be mayor of London.
He added on the 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 that 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.
Mr Stewart has been highly critical of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit, leading to him being sacked as a Tory MP by Mr Johnson last month – along with 20 other colleagues – for voting against a no-deal exit.