Rory Stewart, in that tired Westminster phrase, is “having a moment”. He gets social media in a more natural way than the other candidates so far, certainly more so than the Tory Brexiteers’ favourite son Dominic Raab. Stewart understands that the key is to keep it small scale, make it zany and do it often.

It is some tribute to Rory that Boris’s campaign video, released today, is a virtual copy replete with cosy vox pops and engaged with diverse issues beyond Brexit, principally the NHS. Stewart has made a big point of talking about social care.

After a slew of journalists of a liberal sensibility, and some continuity Remain celebs, including Brian Cox and Gary Lineker, Reaction editor Iain Martin put the other view in Reaction last week: “He is trainee big beast, a statesman of the future perhaps, yet he is behaving like a Tory Zoella YouTube twit. In a year’s time it’ll look embarrassing. Rory, get it together.

“Am I wrong? Am I missing the point? It has happened before…”

Iain is right to label Stewart “a trainee big beast” – he is, of course, unlikely to get through to the final round of this Conservative Grand National-style leadership race. The majority of MPs declared so far are distributed between Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, with the smart money on Boris as long he works around his capacity to self-destruct.

Stewart is unlikely to persuade a deeply Brexit-y Tory membership to swallow the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by May, which he is convinced remains the only way through our present morass.

But he has the leadership style and thoughtfulness that our times call for – the country is split down the middle and profoundly polarized. Both Gove and Johnson are indelibly associated with the Leave side of the argument.

Gove has intelligence in spades – but his style at the Department of Education was frequently unflinching and he comes across as a little too confident in his own persuasiveness – the opposite view is there to be deconstructed, considered briefly and peremptorily dismissed.

Johnson is perhaps more collegiate. His emollience to public opinion has led him to frequently changed tack over the years.

Stewart feels like a throwback to an older time – stumping around his hill constituency, muttering poetry to himself. He’s an explorer.

The late-Imperial male ruling class personality was made up of three elements – the schizoid charlatan, like the Cambridge Spies, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, who compensated for loss of status and Empire through fanatical devotion to the world revolutionary project and a parallel loathing of the decadent West.

Like John Le Carré’s Bill Haydon, a fictionalised Kim Philby, these types were happiest when “standing at the middle of a secret stage, playing world against world, hero and playwright in one”.

The second element is the fanatic Imperialist, who saw in the decline of Empire a catastrophe on a par with the decline of Rome – Enoch Powell is our most notable example.

The third was far more pleasant – deeply nostalgic for something or other, but profoundly interested in the world as it is, in things as they really are. Wry, intelligent and modest in its assumptions – it is a worldview mapped out in the thought of travel writers Patrick Leigh Fermor, Eric Newby or in a comedy programme like Ripping Yarns, an affectionate satire of Edwardian assumptions starring Michael Palin.

Perhaps Stewart can’t win but our times really do call for a leader who can make the present seem a happier place to be – and I think Stewart is very much of a piece with that third, pleasant tradition, a bit of throwback perhaps, a little silly, but the kind of voice that has been drowned out by the shrill and the ideologically convinced.