I observe the Tory leadership contest with the same reluctantly fascinated revulsion as I might experience watching maggots wriggling on a corpse. The metaphor is apt. The British Conservative and Unionist Party is deceased – dead by its own hand.
The candidates for the role of leader are simply seeking to feast on the most juicily putrescent morsels of its rotting flesh. Being addressed as ‘former leader’ still carries a certain cachet within the British political system, even when the entity that was led is long gone. A determined scavenger might yet find in the carcass of the old Tory party material to serve political ambition. Or, at the very least, ensure a seat in the House of Lords and/or on TV panel shows.
I look at the Tory leadership contest and all I see is a seething vipers’ nest of voracious opportunism. And in the midst of it, glistening as obscenely as any other worm, squirms Roderick James Nugent “Rory” Stewart.
But the attentive observer should note something particular about Rory Stewart’s sheen. There is, to be sure, the polish that comes from decades of expensive preparation for entry into the ranks of the British state’s ruling elite – attendance at the right schools; membership of the right clubs; participation in the right pursuits; mixing with the right people. Then there is something else. Something new. Something applied over the deep burnished gleam of breeding and the warm glow of assured preference. On top of all this there is the slick, streaked gloss of rudely applied media spin.
Rory Stewart is being sold to us. Recent media coverage can readily be seen to be a coordinated process of building a narrative. Much of this is crude enough for the original script to be evident. Isn’t it remarkable how many political commentators seem to have simultaneously realised that Rory Stewart strikes them as a ‘decent sort of guy’, or words very much to that effect. Some is more subtle. The disinterring of an oddly indulgent interview in the New Yorker magazine a few years ago makes it look as if the article was created just for this purpose. Almost as if somebody was thinking ahead.
This spate of admiration and flattery in the media has all the managed and coordinated appearance of a professional marketing campaign. The purpose of such a campaign would, obviously, be to put Rory Stewart in 10 Downing Street. That kind of image management doesn’t come cheap. Somebody will be looking for a return on their investment.
I am not for one moment suggesting that Michael Fry is part of this media effort. Not knowingly, anyway. Rory Stewart strikes me as the type of individual who acquires acquaintances and cultivates friendships ever calculatingly mindful of their potential usefulness. Indeed, this would form an important element of his training to become part of the glue binding the structures of power, privilege and patronage commonly known as Britain.
I do, however, think it a bit strange that Mr Fry can recognise Rory Stewart’s elaborate contributions to British Nationalist propaganda during the 2014 referendum campaign and not be even slightly dubious about his motives now.
As for the rest of us, the more adulatory the media’s presentation of Rory Stewart becomes, the more we would be well-advised to look on him with the most jaundiced eye we posses. There is more of the hyena than the lion about this individual.
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