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Tuesday 18 June 2019

Establishment darling Rory Stewart’s run for the Tory leadership took another odd twist last night as he threatened to block No Deal Brexit at a hustings in Westminster.

“I, and nearly 100 of my colleagues, would vote to prevent a No Deal Brexit without having to bring down a Conservative government,” Stewart told lobby journalists

The only concrete takeaway from Stewart’s claim is he will not vote down the government in a no confidence motion, which the Labour Party is angling after in order to get a general election.

Note, in true summer holiday spirit deputy leader Tom Watson said Labour is the party of Remain yesterday. Corbyn should think twice about wanting that election.

Back to Stewart, Westmonster make the astute observation, with help from the Institute for Government that blocking No Deal is impossible. Indeed, blocker in chief, Oliver Letwin admitted as such last week so Rory’s talking nonsense, just like when he said 80% of the public supported Theresa May’s EU treaty, which he still thinks is the way forward. The Independent report he is looking to reboot the dire deal.

Provided he gets at least 33 votes in today’s second ballot, Stewart will attend this evening’s televised debate, the first to feature Boris Johnson. There are fears now that the unashamed Remainer, who can debate will dig into Boris and turn the latter stages of the contest into a blue-on-blue psycho-drama, with Michael Gove reliving the stabbing in the back routine first planted in Boris at the last contest.

Gove tries to muscle past Stewart today with a column in the Times where he rightly argues: “The final two should be candidates who believe in Brexit, who can deliver it and who can unite the party.”

Gove, as a Brexiteer (in his mind at least), sees himself as the only worthy candidate to face off Boris in the run-off.

But Gove’s thin pitch goes to the heart of the problem, too many candidates are talking around Brexit rather than about it. Case in point, Stewart’s miracle cure of a “citizens’ assembly” only offloads the problem without doing anything to resolve it. No doubt, the people are better equipped to resolve such issues, but that doesn’t mean they will succeed. Just look at Ireland, where they are embedded in the constitution. In Dublin, the ledger is full of unresolved policy questions that have had the assembly treatment.

Praise, therefore, goes out, once again, to Steve Baker (see tweet below and linked thread) who eviscerated the Withdrawal Agreement yesterday as a reminder that it cannot return to the debate. Here’s one of many good examples:

“The Northern Irish Protocol (‘backstop’) has no exit clause unless agreed by the EU, so is unique for an international treaty. It would trap the UK and severely reduce scope for negotiation on any future agreement.”

Like Baker, Mark Francois is backing Boris for not equivocating over May’s deal and his determination to get us out of the EU by the end of October. In a piece for Brexit Central, Francois concedes Raab has taken a similarly admirable posture, but Boris is the man, getting extra points for actually saying, “the deal is dead”.

Additional credit if, as rumoured in the Telegraph, Boris evacuates all the Remainer dead wood from the cabinet upon taking charge.

A YouGov poll finds he is rated highly by 77% of Tory members, more than double Stewart’s 31%. Gove is on 50%, Jeremy Hunt is on 56%. Raab isn’t too far behind his fellow Brexiteer on 68%.

most significantly, almost half of the Tory selectorate want Nigel Farage as their leader, that tells you something. Front page of the Express today is a vow by the Brexit Party chief to not form a pact with the Tories.

His support is “not up for grabs”. Great man.