Hunt has done nothing wrong, but…
Something is troubling me about Jeremy Hunt. He always looks as though he is about to be arrested.
I am not saying he has done anything wrong or deserves to be arrested. He said in his press conference or campaign launch today that he has never done anything illegal in his life. If he says that it must be true and I believe him.
But when he is on camera he always looks slightly nervous. As though he is about to be arrested. Am I the only person to have noticed this? Is this what we want in a Prime Minister?
Sign up for our FREE Reaction Weekend Email
Read the week's best-read articles on politics, business and geopolitics
Receive offers and exclusive invites
Plus uplifting cultural commentary
(Editor: No, you are not the first to notice this. We mentioned this cruel tendency and quirk of appearance on the Reaction podcast a few weeks ago. Hunt has not done anything remotely illegal, ever, but when on screen he can sometimes look as though a policeman with a warrant is standing just out of the picture off-camera. Hunt is a talented and highly capable politician, but once you’ve seen this it is hard to unsee.)
Rory, Rory, tell us a story
With reference to your remarks on the recent Reaction podcast about Taylor Swift and Rory Stewart.
Taylor Swift does indeed lead off an album with a single release that jars with her previous works. This successfully draws attention to her upcoming release. That the album is often better received than the opening single is testament to a strategy of lowering expectations only to exceed them. The criticism of her current single (Me!) will serve her well. She is, as you might say, having a moment.
Likening Rory Stewart to Patrick Leigh Fermour (PLF) is aposite, up to a point. PLF was, in his early years, a fake and a sponger. He embellished his name and travelled without much consideration for the burden he placed on others. His writing was often impenetrable and, outside of literary types, considered overrated.
Stewart’s CV suggests he was a probationary Second Lieutenant. That is barely an officer. It is a rank that has all the status of the regimental goat, without the responsibility. His travels would be beyond anyone not bankrolled by their parents (most voters aren’t). Stewart is raising expectations only to fail to achieve them.
In his wartime service, PLF achieved greatness. In his political career, with an outlook that can scarcely be called Conservative, it is unlikely Stewart will do.
Stewart may be having a moment, but unlike Taylor Swift’s, we can but hope it ends soon.
Alastair Benn’s paean to Rory Stewart has some merits.
However, it does little to dissuade one from the opinion that Mr Stewart is indeed the reincarnation of Francis Younghusband…
(Editor: Francis Younghusband – 1863-1942 – was an explorer who led a British expedition to Tibet. He wrote many books and became an early advocate of free love. He is regarded as a prototype hippie, a cross between John Buchan, Indiana Jones and Timothy Leary.)
I am a member of the Labour Party and have been a consistent supporter of a second referendum, so I am an unlikely advocate for Rory Stewart in his declared intention to be our next Prime Minister.
He is an outsider, yes, and unlikely to win the contest: but I do not underestimate him. Having read a couple of his books [Places in Between & The Prince of the Marshes] and listened to him interviewed in contexts as various as Desert Island Discs and Nick Robinson’s Political Thinking Podcast, I conclude that he has originality, thoughtfulness and personal courage which none of the other contestants can match. Yes, his eccentric candidacy may prove an embarrassment, but I think Rory knows the risks he is taking and has the character to weather the consequences.
I listened to him on Question Time recently and understand the force of his argument that a second referendum, whatever the outcome, will be likely to entrench a deep division in our country, and give a victory to one or other side of that divide, without any regard to the ongoing rift that will fester in to our politics.
He makes the further judgement that most of those who have shown support for the Brexit party in the EU elections are less concerned with the detail of Brexit and more concerned that the job be done quickly. I think he is probably right.
Rory Stewart’s ideas for dealing with the Brexit paralysis involve locking key players into a room until they hammer out some form of mutually acceptable way forward: almost certainly a form of Brexit which can be accepted by most people.
Who are these key players? He mentions Len McCluskey on the one hand and Nigel Farage on the other, and I dare say he has a cast of such people in mind. I believe the idea of citizens assemblies may form a model for what he plans.
And how can the outcome of such deliberations be translated into the necessary Parliamentary majority? I await further explanation from Rory on this critical point. To be frank, it all sounds a bit improbable, and yet this unlikely route forward seems to me more like proper politics than the posturing I hear from other candidates for the Tory leadership, who seek to persuade us that the ineffable qualities of their leadership will somehow bamboozle the EU into a favourable deal and the UK Parliament into decisive support: and if so, what then awaits us? I fear we can only hope for a sense of utter rejection in at least one half of our nation and a deeply hubristic triumphalism in the other.
My money may not be on Rory, but he’s certainly my horse in the race.