“I’m getting more and more support and I am confident I can make it to the second round,” Stewart says.
Certainly, Stewart has pitched himself as the antithesis to Johnson. “I am the only candidate that is acknowledging reality,” he says. “Everyone else is pretending they can get a different deal from Brussels, and they will end up letting everyone down.” Stewart claims his refusal to unveil any “fancy” spending plans places him apart from his rivals. Johnson caused a stir on Monday when he pledged to increase the higher rate income tax threshold to £80,000, in a move that would benefit three million people. Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has come out with his own hawkish proposal to increase defence spending above the current two per cent of GDP, while Michael Gove has vowed to ditch VAT. “I won’t spend money we don’t have,” Stewart – who counts Bank of England governor Mark Carney as a friend – declares. “Tax cuts have to be affordable and to do that we have to avoid a no-deal Brexit. The impact of a no-deal Brexit would far outweigh any of the fancy economic policies the other candidates are coming out with. Our brand is for economic competence, and we need to defend that.” One thing he says the country needs to be less defensive about is the success of the City. Stewart rejects the notion that the capital has received too much investment. On the contrary, he thinks it hasn’t had enough. Read more: Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart says he has enough MPs’ support to proceed to first round “I’m really proud of the City of London,” he says. “If I look at things that drive this country, it is the City itself. We shouldn’t be defensive about it, we should embrace it.”
“If I can get to the TV hustings stage that’s where I can perform. That’s where my strengths are. I can out-communicate Boris.”
Stewart could have hardly chosen a more fitting place to join this crowded leadership race than the South Bank circus that hosted his launch this evening. The Tory that welcomes everyone into his tent will have to pull some tricks out the bag if he wants to appeal to his own tribe.