Rory Stewart: Boris is a ‘prancing elephant’ and I might vote Lib Dem

Rory Stewart and Tom Holland, backstage at the Barbican (Rory Stewart)
Rory Stewart and Tom Holland, backstage at the Barbican (Rory Stewart)

Some 2,500 Rory Stewart fans packed into the Barbican to hear the MP-turned-rockstar podcaster talk about his new book Politics On The Edge last night.

It’s a memoir of his time in parliament that lampoons former colleagues, above all Boris Johnson, whom he described as a “prancing elephant” and “a bad person”.

What next for Rory, who purred with approval when interviewer Tom Holland, who were pictured together backstage, suggested he could make a return like Charles de Gaulle? Stewart has said friends are urging him to run as an independent London Mayor, as he did last time, because Tory candidate Susan Hall “isn’t very strong” and Sadiq Khan’s popularity is sliding.

However, the electoral system changed in 2021 to first past the post, making it hard for outsiders. “I think it’s almost unimaginable now, even with all the energy of our podcast, for an independent candidate to come through and beat the big parties,” he has said. Stewart suggested his hit podcast The Rest Is Politics, which he hosts with Alastair Campbell, could help start a new political movement. But he balked at the idea he could start a party with Gary Lineker, who owns the podcast company.

Stewart, who four years ago ran for Tory leader, said he would not vote for the party at the next election. He said he’ll likely plump for the Lib Dems.

May’s hairy moments with portrait sitter

Theresa May with her portrait (Emily Prescott)
Theresa May with her portrait (Emily Prescott)

Former prime minister Theresa May unveiled her new portrait at an event in Parliament last night. The likeness, which has her looking statesmanlike in a slightly military coat, has been widely praised, and will hang in Portcullis House. It cost £28,000.

May, not known for her easy wit, tried out a few jokes: quipping that the gaps between sittings had caused trouble for her hairdresser. You had to be there. In attendance alongside May and her husband, Philip, were artist Saied Dai, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, and ex-home secretary Amber Rudd.

All former PMs get a portrait, by an artist of their choosing. That includes the short-lived Liz Truss, who came to power a year ago tomorrow. By our calculations, given it is four years since May was in power, if it takes as long for Truss to get her portrait, the painting will take 30 times as long as Liz was actually in No 10.

First day of term

Keir Starmer and Keir Mather (Keir Starmer)
Keir Starmer and Keir Mather (Keir Starmer)

New Baby of the House Keir Mather took his place in the Commons yesterday, and met with his namesake party leader, Sir Keir Starmer. Both were sporting start-of-term haircuts. Mather, 25, has put up a number of job adverts to work in his office. Some ask for over a year of political experience, about the same as Mather got when he worked in Wes Streeting’s office. In other SW1 job news, as its director of comms Amber de Botton leaves, No 10 is hiring a press officer. Just don’t swear in front of journos like Gillian Keegan did, and you should do fine.

Right on Kew

Ex-Made in Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh made the most of the surprise sun by taking her two daughters to Kew Gardens yesterday for a green initiative by Bags of Ethics and the Royal Forestry Society that aims to teach kids about the wild. Mackintosh, who was part of the MIC party set, recently marked a year of being sober. She says she is still social, but has a “cut-off time” for going home when pals start slurring. Also in the west London haven were horticulturist Danny Clarke, presenter Alice Beer, CEO Smruti Sririam, and chef Clodagh McKenna, who is married to horse racing boss Harry Herbert.