Rory Stewart, who briefly shook up Tory leadership race, should rethink his approach to political summit, writes Kevan Christie.
What next for “super spy” Rory Stewart, now that his push to topple Boris Johnson and become Prime Minister willhave to Carry On Up the Khyber for a while longer?
Perhaps the latest recruit from the Tory school of utterly charming, bumbling halfwit, could record an album of ballads with former army officer James Blunt based around meeting strangers in public spaces.
The ‘nomadic, quixotic, adventurer’ and serial career hopper (MI6 cover story) could bash out another bestselling travel book based on his day spent walking in the Stockbridge badlands, while he waits for Brad Pitt to eventually get round to making the movie of his life ... to date. Or he could leave the nasty Conservatives and join the loveable Lib Dems where he might perhaps hook up with that Nice Man Willie Rennie for a tour of Dobbies Garden Centres, taking in a selection of their excellent traybakes. But don’t bet on it – they wouldn’t have him. All of which begs the question, why do we keep falling for this foppish Hugh Grant Tory schtick? Give me tartan crooner Andy Stewart over ‘Rory Where’s Your Kaftan?” every day of the week.
Can anyone remember the last Tory to charm his way into the nation’s hearts in such a fashion?
It wasn’t David Cameron, George Osborne, Michael ‘the Govester’ Gove or even Jeremy ‘rhyming slang’ Hunt, no – I’ll put you out of your misery – it was Boris Johnson.
Yip, the same philandering Giant Marshmallow who believes it’s acceptable to publish a poem saying Scottish people are “a verminous race” who should be placed in “a ghetto” and “exterminated”, who called people in Africa “piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles”, and who said people from Liverpool ... OK, you get the picture. Him. The guy who used to be on Have I Got News for You ... a lot. The one with 2point4 or is it 4point2 children?
Now Rory is no Boris, praise be, but a slew of right-wing commentators and those who should know better have gone doolally, throwing their knickers at him and praising his incredible talent for walking and talking at the same time while apparently telling the truth.
I’m sure this multi-tasking former soldier (five months on probation), writer, Foreign Office “official”, Deputy Governor, walker, MP, astronaut, gladiator and Uber driver to name but a few of his previous jobs, would be great company to have a couple of pints with, say in the Wally Dug pub in Edinburgh’s New Town.
“Good lad, gets his round in with pork scratchings, used to be a spy don’t you know?” “No, I have no idea what football team he supports – think he’s more of a rugger man.”
However much he seems like the 70s fictional children’s character Mr Benn, his daily visits to see the “normal” people, as Rory probably likes to call us lesser mortals, somehow feel like part of a calculated strategy driven by his lofty ambitions.
A quick look at Mr Stewart’s voting record sheds a bit of light on his ‘pragmatism, modesty, self-deprecation and lack of ego’. He voted against an investigation into the Iraq War, against a right to remain for EU nationals already living in the UK, voted in favour of the Bedroom Tax and a reduction in spending on welfare benefits. So, there’s no doubt this so-called liberal is in the right party, the nasty one, despite his best attempts to position himself as a caring-sharing man of the people. The attraction with Rory seemed to be predicated on him being the only orange-flavoured Revel in a bag of coffee ones. Everyone else in the Tory leadership race is so incredibly toxic that the quirky weirdo who agreed his performance in the recent debate was a “bit lacklustre” while he passed the time either “manspreading” or whipping his tie off like a teenager at a wedding, is still many people’s preferred choice for leader-in-waiting when Bojo inevitably implodes.
But he’s the Grandmaster Flash of the nebulous phrase, sinisterly referring to his mysterious powers of persusion (waterboarding? rendition flights?) before explaining that his masterplan was to put the original EU deal before parliament for a fourth-time-lucky vote.
He’s basically Theresa May without the kitten heels and that’s it. That’s his act and there’s nothing else going on behind either the curtain or his eyes. Mr Stewart’s plan, which we don’t have to bother about now, was based on the premise that the recent European elections would bring a sea change in the thinking of the 45 MPs he needed to pass May’s deal. That and them changing their minds after a quick cuppa with Rory as he spread his legs and showed them his crown jewels. Job done? When that inevitably failed, he was going to call on a Citizens Assembly to break the impasse, which worked in Ireland on the absolute “no-brainer” issue of ending the ban on abortion, but might have been a little trickier with the goal of sorting out all the old Brexit shenanagins. So what’s the story... morning Rory?
We’re now down to the last two doughnuts left in the battle to become top Krispy Kreme at Westminster. A choice between the Giant Marshmallow and Jeremy ‘rhyming slang’ is to decide between being punched in the pus or poked in the eye. Poor Ruth Davidson. Fresh from kissing Michael Gove to death, she’s now said she’s going to campaign on behalf of the forrmer, the SNP’s favourite “racist”, in the event of a general election. In this climate, little wonder there’s a hankering for a leader who is all of the things Rory appears to be: honest, open to fresh ideas and prepared to engage with people in the streets – including those who voted for other parties.
It’s not over for Rory, not by a long shot, but he needs to have a rethink over some of his ideas and provide a bit more substance over his “style” before he can transform, Mr Benn-like, from contender to true champion.