James Forsyth

The new PM’s Rory Stewart problem

The new PM’s Rory Stewart problem
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In this contest, Rory Stewart has established himself as the new champion of the Tory left. He has become a significant figure in the party. The interests of party unity mean that any new prime minister would want to have him inside the tent rather than on the backbenches where he would be the natural leader of any rebellion. But Rory Stewart has already said that he wouldn’t serve in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet. Indeed, he seems unlikely to serve in any new Tory leader’s government. This poses a problem for the incoming PM. Stewart’s absence will make it that much harder to bring the Tory party back together. Stewart is also now the natural leader of any Tory effort to force the government to seek another extension, or to block no deal.

The Tories’ working majority, with the DUP, is 5. Now, it is highly unlikely that any Tory would vote against the new PM in a confidence vote (they might come October to try and stop no deal but not until then). But they may well, as I say in this week’s magazine, try and force the new PM to seek an extension; setting up a clash that could well lead to a no confidence vote. This means that any new Tory leader will want as many people inside the tent as possible. But Stewart’s declaration that he will not serve shows just how difficult doing that is going to be.