Voters will not have sat down in large numbers to watch yesterday evening’s Channel 4 Conservative leadership election debate.
Party activists may have done so but, by the time that the BBC’s own debate takes place on Tuesday evening, most will have forgotten all about it.
So the only audience that mattered, in brute political terms, were Tory MPs – who will vote before the BBC debate. And most of them have already made up their minds, anyway.
Which leaves the tiny minority of them opposed to Boris Johnson, who are undecided for round two of voting, and were looking at who might best be able to stop him.
Jeremy Hunt was polished, Michael Gove eloquent, Sajid Javid lively and Dominic Raab outnumbered…activists watching may be drawn to him for that reason, but he is very unlikely indeed to make the final round.
Our take, however, is that only one candidate beside Johnson in this contest has so far displayed the X Factor. That man is Rory Stewart. And he did so again yesterday evening.
This does not, repeat not, mean either that we support his candidacy or that he is best placed to beat Johnson. Indeed, he is worst placed.
That Stewart could take enough votes from the self-eliminated Matt Hancock to survive the second ballot, and get into Tuesday evening’s debate, is just about possible.
But to seal a place, and then to get within touching distance of Johnson, he would have to bleed votes from Hunt, Gove, and Javid. This strategy is unveiled to J.Alfred Prufrock MP on the site this morning.
It surely cannot work. So our imaginary MP seeking to find a champion to upend Johnson will not quite have known what to make of it all.