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Analysis

Rory Stewart is just Theresa May 2.0

by Hugo Dixon | 18.06.2019

Some pro-Europeans are latching onto Rory Stewart, like a drowning person clutching straws. They see him as the answer to the perils of Boris Johnson. The media is bigging him up too, as they try to inject some excitement into a Tory leadership battle which today goes into its second round.

People are right to be afraid of Johnson. But Stewart is not the answer to the nation’s problems. He wants Brexit and doesn’t want a new referendum.

Stewart is just a more articulate version of Theresa May. If he gets into Downing Street – which he won’t – he wants Parliament to pass the current prime minister’s miserable withdrawal agreement. That’s a deal which manages the extraordinary feat of damaging both our power and our prosperity by turning us into political eunuchs who don’t even have full access to the EU’s market.

There’s of course precious little chance that MPs will back a deal they have rightly rejected three times. So what’s Stewart’s answer? A citizens’ assembly to advise the government what to do.

July 20th
Park Lane, London

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There’s quite a lot to be said about asking citizens how to bring the country back together – or even conceivably what to do about Brexit. But Stewart says that he won’t call a new referendum if that’s what the assembly recommends. So he is taking off the table the one obvious escape hatch for the deadlock in Parliament. If he ever got into power – and remember again he won’t – he would just set up a futile time-wasting exercise.

Tory MPs who don’t want to crash out of the EU made a big mistake in not backing Sam Gyimah, the one candidate who had a credible plan: to put Brexit back to the people. They are now left flailing around for somebody to put up against Johnson, a task even they know is bound to fail.

It’s not even as if a good second place for Stewart would achieve anything of value. Sure, there are probably enough Tory MPs to stop Johnson dragging us over the abyss. But what do they do then? Back Jeremy Corbyn’s call for an election? Far better to call a referendum, the course of action Stewart has rejected.

The rest of the country, meanwhile, will be reduced to mere spectators as 160,000 Conservative Party members choose a prime minister for a country of 66 million people.

But that doesn’t mean we are impotent. We can join the March for Change on July 20 – just days before Johnson’s likely coronation. We can show the new prime minister, the country and the world that we want to stop the Brexit chaos.
We need a better Britain in a better Europe in a better world. Sign up for the march – and give generously.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

4 Responses to “Rory Stewart is just Theresa May 2.0”

  • If it were not so serious, the the spectacle of the Tory Party leadership contest would be farcical. The public statements of Gove and Johnson which they then contradict themselves a few months later in further public statements is removing any semblance of credibility amongst the political so-called elite. Probably the only consolation is that whoever wins will not be in power for very long and the Conservative Party will then be split and out of office for a long while.

  • I agree regarding Stewart. He may be appealing, bright and funny, and clearly preferable to the other candidates as Tory leader/PM (though his wheels might quickly fall off once in power, as academics don’t always make good politicians – look what happened when Michael Ignatieff led the Liberals in Canada), but he now seems a convinced soft-ish Brexiter. In fact there may be more of a risk of him delivering a Brexit than of Johnson doing so, as if Johnson sticks to No Deal he’ll probably be overthrown, and if he realises he cannot get a deal he might easily betray the Brexiters and switch to Remain if he thinks it will help him. Stewart I suspect will never accept a People’s Vote or revocation, as he clearly fears the consequences. So if he can’t get a deal through conventionally, he’ll push for his unconstitutional colonial governor’s alternative, the vast tribal majlis that is his citizen’s assembly (where Remain will be off the table…)

  • I think you could be right. Boris Johnson opting for Remain does seem utterly crazy at present, but just maybe he could use his personality to pull it off if he wanted it to. Otherwise, the mess he ought to cause is surely a better hope for Remainers than some sensible guy like Rory Stewart – who I suspect might have been able to get May’s deal over the line if given the chance (and hence I think the Tories have been stupid to drop him, but he was clearly beyond the pale in terms of his moderate stance).

  • There is a risk that Stewart is a bit too much of an academic. But, having said that, he speaks clearly and precisely avoiding the mantras and parables of his peers. It is refreshing to hear someone actually thinking on their feet instead of parroting the party-line. I think we need more like him and definitely fewer of the current leading lights of the Tory party. So, I am hopeful that we shall see him appear in some newly formed group or even Lib Dems. He is too good to waste on the back benches while the likes of Boris and friends continue with their destruction of our democracy.