Faux 19th century Etonian explorer Rory Stewart traipsed across Afghanistan avoiding all laws including the need for a foreign visitor’s visa. For him, the trip was a safari, in the colonial sense of the word. He was a privileged visitor from a different world pretending to be interested in real people while benefitting from his investments in businesses that exploit them.
His PR campaign during the Tory leadership contest followed the same pattern. Stewart popped up at Kew Gardens, he walked down streets and he hung around town centres pretending to engage people in conversation. His encounters were filmed and used erroneously as proof that the Etonian enjoys listening to people; Stewart made little contribution to the conversations. Funding for his street campaign came from typical Tory sources including £10,000 from investment banker Lev Mikheev and £10,000 from Khaled Said, son of notorious arms dealer Wafic Said.
Stewart’s campaign was focussed on trying to separate him from the rest of the contenders which was a difficult task because he voted in line with all vicious Tory policy throughout his time as an MP. Behind Etonian bluster the only point he made was to claim he was willing to criticise Boris Johnson but there was no substance to his criticism; he simply said “look at me, I am bold enough to not agree with Johnson.” However, that was enough for a torrent of centrist buffoons to exclaim gleefully that Stewart was the new saviour of British politics.
The desperation of the centrist gloop was unsurprising; they grasp despairingly at anything and anyone that they think could distract and con enough voters to stop Jeremy Corbyn being prime minister. Stewart’s pretence at reasonableness and his gift of the gab, qualities that dazzle impressionable liberals, were merely tactics of conmanship he learnt on special courses at Eton. The arts of persuasion, verbal sleight of hand and depiction of nothingness as something of substance are key components of an Etonian education.
Channelling Alan Partridge, two absurd ideas Stewart offered as part of his imaginary plan were reintroduction of National Service, an idea he borrowed from Chuka Umunna’s incoherent manifesto for centrism, and an alternative parliament in a church close to Westminster if Boris Johnson prorogued parliament.
Stewart and Johnson are the same. They attended the same machine masquerading as a school, they support the same destructive murderous Tory policies, they share the same imperialistic militaristic outlook on the world and they live in the same detached privileged bubble. Both are charlatans, liars and con artists. Both are extremely venal.
In hypothetical isolation, away from the pitiful choices on offer in the Tory leadership race and away from the anything-but-socialism determination of worthless centrists and liberals, an empty chancer like Rory Stewart would have been given peremptory treatment immediately and then forgotten. The fact that he has not been laughed off the streets is a symptom of the vacuous stupidity of British politics and British political journalism.