Rory Stewart: you were honest with the Tory Party about Brexit, now it’s time you were honest with yourself

Dear Rory, 

As the only person standing for the leadership of the Tory Party (“Conservative” must now surely be considered an oxymoron) who recognises how much damage Brexit will cause our country, I was saddened to see you knocked out of the contest yesterday. 

I will not go as far as saying I would vote for you; fundamentally I only vote for people who will stop Brexit and address the real problems in this country through root and branch reform of our own broken political system. However, I did very much respect your open and honest approach with Brexit supporters and the clear way in which you explained the fundamental problems that are yet to be addressed by this failing government.

Sadly your Party appears to have chosen to “believe in the bin” and are duly committing themselves to the trashcan of history. 

However, although I admire the honesty of your campaign, I also think you have been naïve. Although, you have recognised and communicated the problems of ‘no deal’ Brexit, the only solution you were able to offer was to ratify May’s Withdrawal Agreement.

Like many others, I don’t see the DUP, Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Lib Dems, Greens or ERG suddenly shifting position because of a People’s Assembly. However, even if you managed to get the deal through Parliament and avert ‘no deal’ in October, I believe this would only be a very short-lived stay of execution. Any such agreement would become the new rallying point of the Faragists and we would just face another battle to try to save a weaker agreement in which we are already relegated to being a rule-taker.

Fundamentally, I believe this is an attempt to appease the unappeasable. Such efforts actually only serve to undermine our work to crystallise support for a People’s Vote and rally opposition against the media-dominant isolationist agenda. 

We often speak of the 52% and the 48%. However, in 2016, nearly a third of people (28%) did not vote. I have a great deal of sympathy for this group; given the complexity of the issue and the lack of credible information, abstention was very understandable (even Richard Dawkins noted his own lack of qualifications to make a judgement).

However, three years of turmoil later, I am hopeful that many undecided voters can now recognise Brexit for the horrifying omnishambles that it is. At the same time, I am also confident that the young voters who have been enfranchised since 2016 would gladly take the opportunity to end this pointless self-destruction so that we can focus on addressing the global issues of entrenched inequality and the ensuing Climate Emergency.

We are running out of time to stop a ‘no deal’ catastrophe in October and your own brave efforts have been rejected by the Tory Party which instead steers our beloved country towards disaster. I hope that later today we hear of a spoiled ballot at 6pm, a toppled government before the end of July and we see you channelling your energy and talents into forging a new political consensus.

Kindest regards,

Jamie Dalzell

City Councillor, Cambridge 

* Jamie joined the Lib Dems in 2014 and was elected as City Councillor for West Chesterton in May 2018.

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  • Nina Hamilton 20th Jun '19 - 9:36am

    I, too, was rooting for Rory Stewart, who had something of a statesman about him, and made very sensible realistic comments. He inspired me with a feeling of confidence with his obvious caring for the fate of Great Britain.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Jun '19 - 10:40am

    Worth recalling his voting record on Welfare (N.B. he’s a Tory)

    Generally voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms (which Labour describe as the “bedroom tax”) Show votes
    11 votes for, 0 votes against, 7 absences, between 2012–2018

    Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices Show votes
    0 votes for, 5 votes against, in 2013

    Almost always voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability Show votes
    0 votes for, 13 votes against, 2 absences, between 2011–2016

    Almost always voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support Show votes 3 votes for, 0 votes against, 1 absence, in 2012

    Almost always voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits Show votes
    47 votes for, 0 votes against, 7 absences, between 2012–2016

    Generally voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed

  • Bill le Breton 20th Jun '19 - 10:55am

    Jamie he didn’t and doesn’t recognise “how much damage Brexit will cause our country,” He believes in Brexit. He is against exiting with no deal, yes, but he campaigns for the T. May WA.

    What he did was to assert that it is an illusion to believe in ‘no deal’ when a majority exists in Parliament against No Deal and that there is no likelihood that a radically different WA can be drawn up that would be agreed by the 27.

    And for this he was ‘rejected’ by his colleagues.

    What does that tell us? It tells us that the other candidates know this, but knew they had to dissemble during the ‘selection’ process and to agree a pack that no-one else points this out or uses it as an argument against the others. For the next 3 weeks.

    It suggests that the winner will ‘negotiate’ a change to the WA which already has the backing of the EU 27. What is that?

    It is the backstop that the EU27 originally offered – a border down the Irish Sea.

    It is against such a development that we should be preparing ourselves.

  • Bernard Aris 20th Jun '19 - 11:22am

    Isn’t it the height of irony that the Tory warning against Brexit ,as Churchill did against Appeasement, was (in the Tory leadership contest) the most dangerous adversary, critic and inquisitor of the latest parliamentary biographer of Churchill, one B. Johnson?

    Let’s hope that, just like Churchill did, Rory will assemble some pragmastist , realist Tory-minded functionaries at the Foreign Office, Treasury, the Business Department , Chambers of Commerce, the transport sector (etcetera) around himself into a private study group and information-leaking network that will provide him with factual data and lesser-known facts to bombard the Johnson government with like Churchill did the Chamberlain government. Johnson knows how devastating effective such a guerrilla can be.

    Whatever happens, and even if such a network of sources doesn’t materialize, I hope Rory will continue to critisize from the backbenches and in opinion pieces and/or facebook memoranda what havoc the Brexiteers (Raab is sure to get a Cabinet post; Johnson needs him to keep ERG happy) will create.

  • nigel hunter 20th Jun '19 - 11:35am

    We know that leaving the EU without a deal will be bad for the UK,leaving without a deal equally so. On the one side we have Trump lining up for trade deals to the advantage of the US on the other China quietly coming in thru the back door.With or without a deal we are prone to difficult times. Staying in the EU we have a chance to survive the creeping wolves all around.
    Rory Stewart may know how to run a country but if his welfare record is anything to go by he is not a caring supporter of people who need help to succeed.

  • Don’t get carried away with the smooth talking old Etonian Stewart. He’s a pal of Gove…. and believe me as someone with Penrith connections, he’s a Tory to his fingertips.

  • Matt (Bristol) 20th Jun '19 - 12:57pm

    1) Stewart’s policy is Teresa May with more empathy. He is a candidate of the status quo.
    2) He has very carefully avoided discussing the future relationship at all. We have no idea whether he is pro Free trade agreement or customs union or whatever (correct me if I’m wrong).
    3) This party should have learned some scepticism of liberal-minded Etonians who can really, really, yes really, empathise and communicate so fluently.
    4) Another piece of evidence is given by Nicky Morgan, who seemed to be pushing for leader of the Remain-minded Tories and is now a Gove backer, having tacked right to square her ambitions. Stewart’s future actions need to be watched.
    5) It is some evidence of how much the Tory party is now a rowing boat in Farage’s wake, that saying some fairly obvious things in support of what 6mths ago was the monolithic party line, is now construed as the act of a radical revolutionary leftwing maverick.
    6) I feel sorry (a bit, anyway) for Sam Gyimah, who was touting a much more radical proposal that Stewart.

  • Jamie Dalzell 20th Jun '19 - 1:31pm

    Regarding comments above, I agree that Rory Stewart’s policies are in may ways status quo. That should not be surprising, he is a Conservative. Such politicians may stymie our much needed reform agenda but may be important allies in helping prevent the Anarchists currently in control of the Tory Party from running our country of an economic cliff face.

    At the same time, I suspect that some conservatives (emphasis on the small “c”) may realise the recent democratic failure is a reason to embrace more radical changes to our national political system as the current FPP system has failed so fundamentally. In such cases, I do think we should welcome fellow travelers (as we have done with our newest MP; although he is one with a much stronger voting record and commitment to electoral reform and EU).

  • Didn’t I read that Tim Farron tried to recruit Rory ? If so, then he at least didn’t see R.S. as just another died in the wool Tory.

  • Matt (Bristol) 20th Jun '19 - 2:22pm

    Jamie D: “At the same time, I suspect that some conservatives (emphasis on the small “c”) may realise the recent democratic failure is a reason to embrace more radical changes to our national political system as the current FPP system has failed so fundamentally.”

    I really hope this is true.

    There is a gap in the market for a moderately conservative, democratic party. We can’t really effectively fill that gap, but it would be a fellow-traveller on some of the issues we care about.

    If Rory Stewart, Sam Gyimah, Phillip Lee, Dominic Grieve, or any of several men and women, wanted to push for systematic reform and strove to create party that might, for eg, form part of ALDE but be distinct, and represent a different strand of either liberalism or centrist democracy, I’d be all for it.

    But I think it is what he does next that will show us that definitively.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Jun '19 - 3:29pm

    With Rory Stewart out the Tory leadership count this lunchtime had two spoilt ballots.
    Presumably two Con MPs wanted to be seen voting, but chose to maintain secrecy.
    He will probably be able to have a good guess as to who they are.
    Himself perhaps?
    Theresa May perhaps?
    Ken Clarke is usually not secretive.
    Former Chancellor
    Ken Clarke asked at PMQ on 19/6/19 about public spending plans.
    I thought that he was urging Theresa May not to have a splurge in her last few days as PM, echoing the reported views of Philip Anthony Hammond MP. She replied that Ken Clarke as Chancellor (for John Major) had left (New) Labour “a golden inheritance” which they proceeded to spend.
    I remember those days as having well publicised long queues for many public services, particularly in the NHS, constricted by Gordon Brown’s manifesto commitments on matching the Tory spending plans, which Ken Clarke said the Tories would not have done. My mother decided to go private for a hip operation, and died. The doctors refused me any information, but were very keen to be paid.

  • Rory Stewart describes himself as both a social and fiscal conservative. Pro EU pundits built him because he seems less Eurosceptic than his rivals and the current bogeyman is Bubba Johnson. What, I would point out is Johnson was often talked about favourably on LDV during his time as Mayor of London and during the coalition years. I had many arguments on here about why Oona King would have beaten him and why he was a plonker, only to be told his buffoonery was just an act, he was really popular with Londoners, and that he was in fact a political heavyweight with liberal instincts. Personally, I suspect Johnson may try to revoke article 50 to go for a general election win on the grounds that it will give Brexit a stronger mandate. His big weakness is opportunism rather ideology.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Jun '19 - 7:23pm

    Jamie, The Tory and Labour Parties have subsisted because they are arch pragmatists. They put winning and retaining power above all.

    The Tories are probably now (or in 3 weeks time) united on the tactics. Brexit.

    How do they achieve Brexit from here? Certainly not by holding a GE before they achieve this.

    Because they cannot stop the Commons voting against ‘No deal’, They have a straight choice: prorogue Parliament or do a deal. Proroguing is their backstop. First they will try the Deal Route.

    The only Deal Route(s) available are ones that the EU negotiating team has already offered May. The cabinet will dust these off and choose one. As I wrote above, my betting it will be a border down the Irish Sea.

    To understand how pragmatic they are look at the Poll Tax: They just changed leader and introduced Council Tax – all within weeks. Know only that they will do anything to survive.

  • Thanks to all those above who have pointed out that a man who was campaigning to be leader of the Conservative Party is a Tory who has obeyed the party whip and voted for Tory policies.

    Who knew?

  • Matt (bristol) 20th Jun '19 - 8:20pm

    Bill, that makes sense up to the point where the DUP withdraw their cooperation. You think Boris or whoever will be able to get enough Labour MPs on side to deliver that? (Not to mention the possibility of the Scottish Tories deciding this all sets horrific precedents)?

  • @ Cassie “Thanks to all those above who have pointed out that a man who was campaigning to be leader of the Conservative Party is a Tory who has obeyed the party whip”.

    Well said, Cassie. I’m frequently astonished at the naivety of some Lib Dems – no wonder they made a horlicks of the Coalition. It’s no good rolling on your back waiting for your tummy to be tickled when you’re in the jungle and there are tigers and (Monty) Pythons around.

  • John Marriott 20th Jun '19 - 9:18pm

    Yes, Rory Stewart was different from the other lot, a bit quirky, a bit ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, with a face that is itself a caricature. He is, of course, a posh boy, who smoked opium at an Afghan wedding, and who may indeed have been a spy. With a CV like his, he could have come straight out of a John Buchan novel. A liberal? Not in a month of Sundays. A future Tory leader? That depends on what kind of Tory party survives this present shambles.

    What interests me more is what happens if Boris Johnson emerges as our PM at the end of July. Will we see defections and to where? How about a No Confidence Motion from Labour? What chance if it succeeded of a cross party coalition being formed within the first fourteen days? If not, would another General Election solve anything? It could be a very lively Summer.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Jun '19 - 9:44pm

    Matt – could be a face saver for DUP – alternative is in effect a united Ireland (economically … and then …. politically)

    I just don’t see them (both Tories and DUP) committing political suicxde. Plus a dosh of money of course.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Jun '19 - 9:47pm

    John Marriott – hence his nickname, Florence of Belgravia. And ‘that’ portrait.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Jun '19 - 10:09pm

    And Labour’s plan?

    They are set to lose 80+ seats. So they are looking closely at a cost benefit analysis of moving from the status quo either to prop up some of their leave seats (many have already gone beyond repair) or their London and Londonesque remain seats, many of those seat are already gone beyond repair (to us and to the greens).

    So Labour now are counting ‘votes’ across their frontier seats before deciding which way to jump. They have a special team devoted to that calculation. On balance those figures probably add up to staying where they are on Brexit.

    What therefore should we do? A similar counting exercise. Many many many seats will be won with 30% of the vote. Resources aside for the moment, we need to count the seats in which we could get 30%. Then work out a way of getting in front of those voters and looking credible. But first identify those seats where 30% of those going to vote could vote for us..

    That ‘contact’ has in the main to be electronic. That has to be smart. That has to be down in large part to our leader.

    That is the criterion we should be using for our choice of leader. Nothing matters so much as reaching our potential voters in those 30% Seats.

  • “To understand how pragmatic they are look at the Poll Tax: They just changed leader and introduced Council Tax – all within weeks.”

    Just so; an interesting parallel. Thatcher got it badly wrong in going for the Poll Tax and, if memory serves, polling was showing that they would lose the next GE badly. Something had to be done and finding that something was the top priority for Thatcher’s replacement – John Major.

    But … lots of Tory MPs and members thought the Poll Tax was wonderful and so there was an awkward squad of backbenchers who wanted no change and were making a lot of noise about that.

    So, I thought it telling that when Major published the proposals for Council Tax the awkward squad all shut up immediately and were never heard from again (at least not on that subject).

    My belief was and is that they understood it was the closest approximation to the Poll Tax that was politically doable and sustainable and so it has proved. Naturally, the moguls controlling print media were happy with it so didn’t make an issue of it and it the opposition parties apparently never noticed.

    And that ability to pivot to a new plan is, in a nutshell, why the Tories win far more often than they should.

  • Bill le Breton 21st Jun '19 - 6:58am

    Neatly put Gordon ! “And that ability to pivot to a new plan is, in a nutshell, why the Tories win far more often than they should.”

  • Jamie Dalzell 21st Jun '19 - 10:42am

    Certainly interesting comments, and I would note that my “letter” attempts to acknowledge the qualities that won Rory admirers outside of the Tories (including within our own party) but focuses on the key weaknesses in his arguments; i.e. he eloquently acknowledged the problems of ‘no deal’, but has ignored the failures of May’s deal and presents no credible solution to the current impasse.

    Bill and Gordon – you seem to expect that in fact the Tories, as eternal power-hungy pragmatists, will actually push through May’s deal and secure Brexit with transition period. There is certainly a pattern of behaviour to support the hypothesis, however I think the period you refer to is very different to the one we now face.

    Notable was the recent YouGov poll of Tory Members, which showed how the majority would sacrifice Scotland, Northern Ireland, the economy and their own party in order to “secure Brexit”. The zealots are now the majority in the party and any ambitious Tory just needs to promise ‘No Deal’ (‘true Brexit’ etc.) to garner support. Although Boris may try to bluff and bluster past them; he depends on the DUP and will have Nigel Farage worrying their flank. Neither will be shut up as easily as the ‘awkward squad’ of Tories in the early 90s.

    Boris therefore has the same problems as May and I will shocked if a sudden majority forms to support a deal. We then get to the game of trying to force through ‘No Deal’ as his path of least resistance; I hope the likes of Rory Stewart and Dominic Grieve will show some decency and withdraw support from this government to prevent the disaster they know would be inflicted.

  • Rory Stewart had the strange idea that it is important to tell the truth. He seemed very uncomfortable that this was falling on deaf ears.
    I do not know why nobody will the tell the truth about the situation. There will have to be some agreement with the rest of the EU by the leaving date. Otherwise all trade will stop. This is impossible. There are real officers who will need to make real decisions on what to do. It can not happen that the officers are given no instructions.
    When are we going to start talking about the real world?

  • Jamie Dalzell – My earlier comment was only to pick up on Bill’s earlier reference to the Poll Tax.

    The unstated thought wrapped up in it was that, while pragmatism and the ability to turn on a sixpence is important in politics as the Tories have repeatedly shown, the corollary is that the inability to do so is a great weakness of the Lib Dems.

    They prefer stick with a cumbersome, process-heavy and very slow approach to policymaking even though it’s consistently failed to deliver the goods. Doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result is, of course, the Internet’s favourite definition of insanity.

    As for the Conservatives and Brexit – I don’t know what they will do. They seem to be in full denial mode refusing to take on board any inconvenient facts. If they don’t push it through a majority of members will never forgive them; conversely if they do the country never will and most of the current lot will lose their political careers in the inevitable fallout as I hope some of the saner ones realise.

    Squaring that circle calls for dark arts of the highest order.

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