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14 January 2010

Rory Stewart: the puff piece

Julian Glover's Guardian profile avoids the key questions

By Mehdi Hasan

Lucky I didn’t have breakfast this morning. Otherwise I think I’d have been sick by now.

Who else read Julian Glover’s puff piece (oops! In-depth profile, I mean) in the Guardian’s G2 today?

Here are some of the highlights from the love-in, in case you missed it:

A short burst of semi-automatic gunfire rings out from the bushes . . . Rory Stewart doesn’t even flinch.

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. . . his arrival personifies the Cameron revolution.

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Among the ranks of all the new parliamentary candidates on offer . . . Stewart is blessed . . . by standing out as being by a long way the most extraordinary.

As we walk, the New Yorker magazine emails asking him to agree to a profile piece.

Stewart, who looks (deceptively) winsome and vulnerable with his tousled hair and wiry build . . .

The romantic American ideal of a British adventurer, he has testified before the Senate foreign relations committee . . .

A clever, charming and funny man . . . Stewart seems to display a dreamlike disconnection with the world as other mortals experience it.

It is tempting to think of Stewart as a man out of his time . . .

Throw a subject at Stewart — Henry V, for instance — and he pours forth detail and understanding.

Stewart is a liberal idealist.

But here’s my favourite bit: the Stewart/Glover duo take part in a pub quiz at the “Black Bull hotel” and despite “full marks for geography and history” (hooray, chaps!) they come last because of their lack of pop music knowledge, and because “neither of us knew who plays Dot Cotton in EastEnders“. Those poor things! Imagine advising the Obama administration on Afghanistan or (in Glover’s case) analysing ICM polling trends week in, week out for the Guardian, only to come intellectually unstuck over the identity of June Brown, MBE.

Don’t get me wrong. Stewart is a fascinating character who deserves a write-up in G2. And Glover is right to say that “he will be Britain’s most fascinating and most watched new MP”. But the big issue for me is how Stewart will reconcile his pro-EU, anti-surge views with a Tory party that is aligned with extremists in Europe and fully committed to Barack Obama and Gordon Brown’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Can Stewart serve in a William Hague-led Foreign Office, without repudiating his earlier views and losing all credibility as an independent and interesting thinker? Glover’s response is to fudge:

Whether Cameron will be able to listen to someone as honest and unusual as Rory Stewart is unclear.

It’s more than unclear. It’s very unlikely.