Only this morning, ConservativeHome ran what looked, at first glance, like Rory Stewart’s application for DEFRA Secretary, after Michael Gove departs (whenever that may be).
That reading may be mistaken. The former senior administrator of part of Iraq, in the aftermath of the war; solo walker across parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Iran; author, and Foreign Office Minister is more likely to have his eye on that last department. He is also a former Chairman of the Defence Select Committee.
But DFID, the Defence Department and the Foreign Office have a triangular relationship. So there is a logic in sending this polymath to the first of those departments.
Like Penny Mourdaunt’s promotion, this one is also a kind of reward. Stewart is one of the few middle-ranking Ministers who, while others were fleeing for the hills, girded himself up – and went out to fight for Theresa May’s Brexit deal. He has become an energetic and articulate champion of it in the TV studios and on social media.
It may have crossed his mind that this advocacy, made for a deal in which he now believes, will have done his future leadership prospects no harm. He scored a mere three per cent in our most recent Next Tory Leader survey.
Still, that was a higher total than any other of its twenty-plus contenders, save the “big five” of Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt. And now he will be sitting at the top table.