Rory Stewart’s nerdiness means he’s simply the form of oddball the British love


Is there anybody within the working for the Tory management I can take pleasure in, purely from a mode standpoint?

Sheila, by e-mail

Thanks, Sheila, for emphasising that each one dialogue of the Tories on this column might be purely from the angle of non-public type. I’ll depart it as much as my colleagues on the politics desk to contemplate the waddyacallits, um, you realize, the thingummybobs. Oh, sure, the insurance policies. I don’t hassle with such fripperies. I concentrate on what actually issues: private type.

We might discuss Dominic “I’m completely not a misogynist, however feminism is bigotry” Raab, and his hilarious photoshoot with the compulsory supportive wifely presence. Three weeks on and I’m nonetheless excited about how somebody – him? Supportive spouse? – put two slices of toast on what appears like three plates on the kitchen counter subsequent to him, making certain we, the fortunate public, would nonetheless see it over the casually opened cookbook. Nothing extra relatable than toast and a cookbook, people!

There may be an attention-grabbing divide on my social media between ladies who’ve a crush on Raab (lunatics) and those that have one on Rory Stewart (ummm?). I don’t have one on both of them. (I’m holding out for a younger Lucian Freud or younger Mickey Rourke, neither of whom, sadly, are working for the Tory management.) However I can admire that Stewart is quick turning into the star of this management contest, albeit one that’s going to burn out – so possibly extra like a wonderful doomed supernova.

Stewart is such an oddball determine that it’s unusual it has taken this nation so lengthy to develop a collective fascination with him. He offers impassioned speeches in the home about hedgehogs. He has been accused of being a spy (which sure, m’lud, he strongly denies). He has the completely rumpled and ridiculous air of somebody who was born very a lot within the incorrect century, or at the least needs he was. And but he seems to have cannily modified tack for this management contest to work probably the most media-friendly pattern of all, which is cheerful nerdiness.

Within the US, Pete Buttigieg, whom I more and more regard fondly as a male Leslie Knope, could be very a lot flying the flag for the cheerful nerd contingent, and now Britain apparently has its model in Stewart. To this point, Stewart’s self-consciously hotchpotch marketing campaign appears to encompass him going spherical numerous locations, filming himself there, after which tweeting plaintively to see if anybody needs to have a chat with him. “Now – if anybody needs to speak – in Kew Gardens – for the following hour,” was his undeniably nerdy (and barely tragic) Tuesday message. If that doesn’t sound nerdy sufficient, it’s painfully apparent he’s not doing the filming (which he admits), however merely holding his arm outstretched so it appears as if he’s making a selfie video. Why? Who is aware of? However that is very a lot on-brand for Stewart, who maybe is rather less adorably easy than some individuals assume.

The factor about Stewart, is, in contrast to Buttigieg, I don’t assume he sees himself as nerdy. I’ve been rereading Ian Parker’s hilarious 2010 New Yorker profile of Stewart this week, which is wealthy in observations resembling: “His title appears nude with out a ‘Sir’ in entrance of it. When he stands nonetheless, he appears to be posing for a sculptor.” Stewart lengthy noticed himself because the second coming of TE Lawrence (“an idol of his”) who, inconveniently, was born in an all-too fashionable period. (By the way, there’s something very revealing about this nation in that Stewart is taken into account one thing of an outsider. As his mom described Stewart’s background to the New Yorker: “Dragon [school], Eton, the Military, Balliol, diplomatic service. It’s Edwardian.”)

As a baby, he named his toy horse Bucephalus “for the horse that Alexander the Nice tamed as a youth”. Nonetheless as a baby, he had a passion for reciting Hamlet. As an grownup he refers to his mother and father as “Mummy and Daddy”. Stewart isn’t TE Lawrence, he’s Max Fischer from Rushmore with out the category points. Or the Cat Stevens soundtrack.

He’s a British eccentric with preternatural intelligence that Boris Johnson can solely dream of. So, for that motive alone, I’m disposed to love him. And in any case, no dangerous ever got here from this nation turning into obsessive about somebody who appears to be a little bit of a personality. Proper?


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