The defeated Tory leadership candidate Mr Stewart addressed a “losers rally” in central London last night at which he urged supporters to pull the Conservative Party to the centre ground of British politics. The International Development Secretary was knocked out of the battle for Downing Street on Wednesday after his campaign went backwards, with his share of the vote dropping from 37 votes to 27. However, undeterred, he told the rally to help him create a more moderate party.
He said: “The way that you will do that is by joining.
“The way that you will do that is by getting 300,000 members in to that party and making it again the party of the centre ground.
“An invitation to join a movement, an invitation also for some of you to do what you will be reluctant to do, which is re-engage with politics directly.”
The plot echos Labour’s grassroots campaign group Momentum – the hard left movement which propelled Jeremy Corbyn to leadership of the Labour Party.
Unlike fellow candidates Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid, with whom he debated on Channel 4 last year, Mr Stewart says the no deal Brexit option must be taken off the table.
Instead, he backs the idea of trying to get current Prime Minister Theresa May’s thrice-defeated withdrawal agreement through Parliament.
Mr Stewart organised the event on London’s Southbank at the same venue as where he launched his campaign.
In a video published on his Twitter account, Mr Stewart appeared poked fun at himself as he walked towards the camera removing his tie, a reference to him doing likewise during Tuesday’s BBC debate.
He said in the video: “Thank you all very, very much indeed and it has been an incredible campaign.
“I am really, really, really grateful that you came with me.
“I have been so buoyed up and energised. I am not disappointed by this result because I think we are uncovering something extraordinary in this country and in British politics.
“And Rory walks on.”
Mr Stewart has given no indications as to which of the final two candidates – Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson – he will be backing.
However, given his statement that he would not be able to serve of a cabinet presided by Mr Johnson, it appears unlikely he will be supporting the former Foreign Secretary.
The final two candidates will now attempt to drum up support among the party’s 160,000 members, with the result scheduled to be announced in the week starting July 22.
However, a Conservative Party spokesman told Express.co.uk it would not be possible for people to join now in order to vote.
In order to do so, people need to have been members for at least three months prior to the question being put to the wider membership.