The former Foreign Office minister Rory Stewart said that he has found it painful to watch the Conservative party lurch to the right claiming that electoral reform is the only way to solve a gaping hole in British politics. Stewart said that new parties, new ideas, and new opportunities could break through.
He said this would be an important corrective to a wooden, stiff and boring Labour party and a Conservative party in la-la land. Stewart was a candidate to be leader of the Tory party in 2019 in the contest ultimately won by Boris Johnson, but was expelled from the party later that year.
There is a huge space for a new party. In Scotland it should be a liberal, unionist party, in other words a party that believes in the United Kingdom that is not a rightwing populist party. He said that in England it should be a really strong, dynamic party of the centre.
He cited the example of the Teal Independents in Australia as a possible model. These are independent candidates who are united by their combination of blue, the traditional colour of the centre-right Liberal party, with green views on climate.
Stewart said he would love to come back to frontline politics, which he left three years ago, but this would probably depend on electoral reforms.
He was asked whether he would vote for Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak, but he reluctantly chose Sunak, even though his expulsion from the party means he is unable to vote.
He shared his feelings of disenchantment with politics, which he described as an incredibly fake profession in which it had not been possible to change for his constituents as MP and a policy level as Minister due to the incredibly complicated UK political system. He said it had been a nonsense that I did when I knew nothing about Africa policy. Reflecting on his difficult time working under Johnson, then the foreign secretary, he said he had concluded that he was a genuinely terrible human being who had lost the trust and respect of his junior ministers.
He was very angry at his failure to grasp details and decisions he would make, such as congratulating the Kenyan government despite accusations of electoral corruption, telling ambassadors to write optimistic dispatches from their country, and arriving at morning meetings sounding like he had read the Economist in the bath the night before any attempted confrontations with Johnson. I would find myself outside three minutes later, like an abused partner, he said.
Stewart wants to lead a global movement to improve the impact of international development work, citing its failure to lower the poverty level in sub-Saharan Africa since 1980 as a reason.
He would like to see charities focus on cash grants directly to those in need rather than spend money on expensive on-the- ground staff from western countries making decisions for local people.
As a staunch unionist, he said he would support the campaign for Scotland to remain part of the UK as nothing gets better through drawing borders as Brexit has exemplified.
He would prefer not to see a referendum, rather than helping to put issues to bed, because he believes that they are polarising and divisive. But if one took place, he recommended Gordon Brown as a fantastic voice to lead the pro-union campaign rather than him.