DURING April the UK hosted a Swedish truant – 16 years old but dressed as though for kindergarten – who foretells an ecological apocalypse. Thirty years older but still resembling an awkward adolescent in his father’s suit, Rory Stewart, in his evangelistic effort to prevent a ‘catastrophic’ no-deal Brexit, has become the Greta Thunberg of the Conservative Party.

According to Greta’s mother, her autistic daughter ‘is able to see what other people cannot see . . . carbon dioxide with the naked eye’. Instead of responsible adults notifying Swedish social services, this troubled teenage alarmist was fawned over by British politicians, including so-called Conservatives. With a sycophancy which was even more embarrassing than his admission of past drug use, Michael Gove gushed: ‘Your voice – still, calm and clear – is like the voice of our conscience.’

Gove has not said the same to his fellow leadership candidate, at least not yet. Rory Stewart – yesterday labelled by TCW’s Bruce Newsome as ‘the fakest fake Conservative’ –  has, contrary to expectation, survived the first ballot by garnering support from 18 other MPs. These include cabinet ministers past and present Ken Clarke and David Gauke, for whom Stewart ‘demonstrates a willingness to face facts and seriousness of purpose that makes him the best choice to be our next prime minister’.

Now that the artist known as Rory (actual name Roderick – yes, Rod Stewart) has remained in the contest, what Clarke and Gauke called his ‘seriousness of purpose’ has morphed into messianic zealotry redolent of Miss Thunberg. Both are lauded by our Leftist media, in Stewart’s case the cheers being for his crusade to block a no-deal Brexit, which he warns will be ‘catastrophic’.

Even during his period of weird walkabouts and idiosyncratic video diaries, Rory Stewart’s unwarranted sense of entitlement was never far from the surface. Before he had sufficient nominations even to stand, supercilious Stewart publicly rejected jobs not offered to him and not likely to be: ‘I couldn’t serve [in a Johnson-led government] as Foreign Secretary or International Development Secretary.’

What initially seemed a harmless, quirky charm has become insufferable arrogance: ‘With the public I’m now right up there with Boris . . . very importantly I’m now second amongst the Conservative members.’ The latter claim had followed the eve-of-poll survey by Conservative Home which found that Rory Stewart was indeed the second most favoured candidate, but only by 11 per cent of the small sample (Boris being the choice of more than half). The fact that Stewart was only marginally more popular than several other candidates did not deter him from crowing that the only people who can beat Johnson are ‘me and Boris himself’.

Clearing the initial hurdle by all of, er, two votes further emboldened him. Within minutes of the result, Rory was cocksure on camera, daring the next prime minister – ‘Boris, are you going to lock the doors?’ – to prorogue Parliament. To prevent a no-deal Brexit on October 31 being achieved by prorogation, Stewart even threatens to establish an alternative legislature: ‘I guarantee you if he were to try, I and every other Member of Parliament will sit across the road in Methodist Central Hall and we will hold our own session of Parliament and we will bring him down.’

Evidently the first round result has further swollen Rory’s already oversized head. Tweeting a graph showing himself to have been the first round runner-up (by number of ‘gains’), Rory was the only person to draw the conclusion: ‘It’s increasingly clear it’s me against Boris.’

That hubris came from the man who had just been placed seventh of 11, having gained only six per cent of available votes, and had attracted least support of any survivor. Yet on ITN News the self-important Stewart sounded off as though he were prime minister designate: ‘I will be saying to the other candidates, “Come in with me. I admire you. Come and serve in my team and we can beat Boris”.’

One imagines the others will give him short shrift, especially if Stewart tries to repeat the invitation during tonight’s Channel 4 debate. At the time of writing Boris Johnson is unlikely to participate in what he forecasts will be a ‘cacophonous’ event. This sidestep will bring much criticism, and there are many reasons to remain sceptical of Johnson; nonetheless, it is understandable that BoJo feels he has nothing to gain from spending 90 minutes on hostile Channel 4 being Aunt Sally.

It is reported that Johnson will participate in the BBC debate scheduled for Tuesday evening, by which time the second-round vote is expected to eliminate the increasingly irritating Stewart. In the meantime, expect Channel 4 to grant the chief Boris-basher ample opportunity to showboat and exhibit why he has become the pet candidate of the Left. Not that Labour and LibDem supporters would ever actually vote for a Stewart-led Conservative Party – he is just their preferred choice to keep the seat of government warm for the Left and, until then, to frustrate Brexit.

Behind his verbal flourishes and New Age nuttiness of ‘unleashing energy, compassion and, ultimately, love’, on Brexit Stewart says the ‘only logical position’ is for Parliament to exhume and resuscitate the thrice-defeated Brexit-in-name-only Withdrawal Agreement. Which explains why, during BBC’s Politics Live, Andrew Neil labelled him ‘continuity May’.

In an interview last November to promote Theresa’s toxic treaty, when asked to justify the outlandish claim he had just made that ’80 per cent of the British public support this deal’, Rory Stewart infamously explained, ‘I’m producing a figure to illustrate what I believe, which is that the people who are rejecting this are 10 per cent on either fringe.’

That was our introduction to a brazen boastfulness which now is overweening. Rory Stewart certainly has a unique perspective but it is the political equivalent of claiming to see carbon dioxide.

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