HENRY DEEDS: What Rory Stewart thought of Boris Johnson? An ass with no plan

Those ruddy Conservative leadership candidates were at it again yesterday morning. Barely hours after bickering on Channel 4’s live debate, each submitted himself for a grilling by parliamentary lobby reporters.

Not Boris, though. His campaign team still have him bound up somewhere in duct tape.

Each candidate was given 20 minutes to dazzle us. They were allowed to make a short pitch on why they should be leader before taking questions.

Those ruddy Conservative leadership candidates were at it again yesterday morning. Barely hours after bickering on Channel 4’s live debate (pictured), each submitted himself for a grilling by parliamentary lobby reporters

Those ruddy Conservative leadership candidates were at it again yesterday morning. Barely hours after bickering on Channel 4’s live debate (pictured), each submitted himself for a grilling by parliamentary lobby reporters

Those ruddy Conservative leadership candidates were at it again yesterday morning. Barely hours after bickering on Channel 4’s live debate (pictured), each submitted himself for a grilling by parliamentary lobby reporters 

Perhaps it’s me but I thought they were all beginning to look weary. A bit pasty round the gills.

At this rate Boris will be the only one with any zip left in the tank. Maybe that’s been his strategy all along. A political version of the rope-a-dope.

Up first was competition wild card Rory Stewart. He dispensed with the pitch and just proceeded straight to the Q&A. Bring it on.

Not Boris (pictured), though. His campaign team still have him bound up somewhere in duct tape

Not Boris (pictured), though. His campaign team still have him bound up somewhere in duct tape

Not Boris (pictured), though. His campaign team still have him bound up somewhere in duct tape

I am the man to beat Boris. That was essentially his sell. ‘Who has the style?’ he asked confidently.

Rory doesn’t care for Johnson, that much is clear. He thinks he’s an ass. Worse, an ass without a plan.

The fact that BoJo has got Remainers such as Matt Hancock as well as hard-core Brexiteers such as Mark Francois to back him, he pointed out, was proof of his duplicity. ‘He seems to be having different relationships in different rooms with people who don’t talk to each other,’ he said, running his tongue around the inside of his cheeks.

Eh? Surely if Rory had both those MPs in his pocket as backers, he’d have said it was proof of his broad appeal.

Behind much of Stewart’s unexpected success in this contest has been his willingness to kick chunks out of the frontrunner. But will he get the requisite 33 votes today to go through? He genuinely didn’t know. MPs, he said, weren’t exactly trustworthy when it came to voting.

Saj Javid was next. What a polite, eager-to-please creature the Home Secretary was. He was the man with the ‘background, vision and experience to lead the country’, he assured us.

Someone suggested he’d been too nice during the race. Campaigning with the handbrake on, was how it was put to him. Saj admitted he wasn’t the world’s most confident speaker but pointed out his fellow candidates’ debating skills were honed at elite schools. ‘I didn’t get that chance,’ he said.

Rory Stewart (right next to Dominic Raab) doesn’t care for Johnson, that much is clear. He thinks he’s an ass. Worse, an ass without a plan

Rory Stewart (right next to Dominic Raab) doesn’t care for Johnson, that much is clear. He thinks he’s an ass. Worse, an ass without a plan

Rory Stewart (right next to Dominic Raab) doesn’t care for Johnson, that much is clear. He thinks he’s an ass. Worse, an ass without a plan

He briefly pondered the horror of a Jeremy Corbyn government. ‘I don’t know who’d be first against the wall. Conservative MPs or journalists.’ Cue nervous laughter all round. We were then treated to the feline charms of Jeremy Hunt. The usually courteous Mr Hunt was in Clint Eastwood mode. ‘I will not blink,’ he kept repeating about dealing with Brussels. Perhaps because he was previously an ardent Remainer, he was at great pains to point out he was prepared to leave the EU without a deal.

We learned some other interesting things about the Foreign Secretary. He believes in God. He thinks John Bercow has used the office of Speaker to further his political agenda.

There is a dignity about him too. When handed the opportunity to score points off Boris, his predecessor at the Foreign Office, over his handling of British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention in Iran, he refused.

The usually courteous Mr Hunt (pictured) was in Clint Eastwood mode. 'I will not blink,' he kept repeating about dealing with Brussels. Perhaps because he was previously an ardent Remainer, he was at great pains to point out he was prepared to leave the EU without a deal

The usually courteous Mr Hunt (pictured) was in Clint Eastwood mode. 'I will not blink,' he kept repeating about dealing with Brussels. Perhaps because he was previously an ardent Remainer, he was at great pains to point out he was prepared to leave the EU without a deal

The usually courteous Mr Hunt (pictured) was in Clint Eastwood mode. ‘I will not blink,’ he kept repeating about dealing with Brussels. Perhaps because he was previously an ardent Remainer, he was at great pains to point out he was prepared to leave the EU without a deal

‘Everyone makes mistakes,’ he said. ‘I’m sure I will do in the future.’ One further observation: Of all the five candidates we saw, Mr Hunt was the only one who remained seated throughout. Make of that what you will.

Dominic Raab hasn’t got going in this contest. He put in a better performance than for last week’s dreary launch but that is not a high watermark. He has a woman problem. They don’t warm to him. He’s struggling to shake off remarks he made years ago about feminists being obnoxious bigots which he was asked about again yesterday.

Dominic Raab (pictured leaving Parliament yesterday) hasn't got going in this contest. He put in a better performance than for last week's dreary launch but that is not a high watermark. He has a woman problem. They don't warm to him

Dominic Raab (pictured leaving Parliament yesterday) hasn't got going in this contest. He put in a better performance than for last week's dreary launch but that is not a high watermark. He has a woman problem. They don't warm to him

Dominic Raab (pictured leaving Parliament yesterday) hasn’t got going in this contest. He put in a better performance than for last week’s dreary launch but that is not a high watermark. He has a woman problem. They don’t warm to him

Relations between him and Rory Stewart are clearly not fragrant. He slagged off Rory’s Citizens’ Assembly plans, deriding them as the ruse of ‘tinpot dictators’. He said he was ‘quietly confident’ he’ll go through today, flashing us a sly wink.

Finally, Michael Gove strolled in, customary grin smeared across his cheeks. Gove wants it. He really, really wants it.

He was the man to strike fear into Jeremy Corbyn’s heart, he said. ‘I have fire in my belly.’

Someone asked if he was talking to David Cameron again, with whom he fell out with over the referendum. No dice, said Gove. Dave’s a private citizen now, so off-limits. Sounds like they’re still on non-speakers.

Finally, Michael Gove (pictured during the debate) strolled in, customary grin smeared across his cheeks. Gove wants it. He really, really wants it

Finally, Michael Gove (pictured during the debate) strolled in, customary grin smeared across his cheeks. Gove wants it. He really, really wants it

Finally, Michael Gove (pictured during the debate) strolled in, customary grin smeared across his cheeks. Gove wants it. He really, really wants it 

There was a gracious offer of congratulations to his biographer Owen Bennett, who unearthed the unhelpful story about the Environment Secretary’s past drug taking.

One thing I’ll say for Gove, he always gets a laugh. Was he the morning’s strongest performer? I would say so.

His response to a question they were all asked about President Trump’s decision to quote some unpleasant comments Katie Hopkins made on Twitter about London Mayor Sadiq Khan – ‘I think it’s always a mistake to retweet anything Katie Hopkins tweets’ – was also the best. Who’s next for the chop? We’ll know by 6pm today.

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