Rory Stewart has quashed rumours – started by himself – that he was standing down as an MP, as he accepted GQ magazine’s ‘politician of the year’ award.
The former Tory had just rebelled against Boris Johnson’s government along with 20 others in a historic vote, before heading off to the glitzy GQ event in tartan trousers and waistcoat.
But his acceptance speech caused wild speculation by telling people he was accepting the award “the evening at which I cease to be a politician”.
He has now clarified that he is “not stepping down as an MP”, suggesting that his acceptance speech had been over-interpreted.
The former Tory leadership candidate’s speech had begun by talking about how the evening was “probably the most embarrassing moment in my life”.
He continued: “Not only am I probably the least famous person to stand on this stage, but also I was voting in the House of Commons till about 25 minutes ago, so I thought I wasn’t even going to be able to be here.
“And then I had to leave the House of Commons in my natty tartan trousers, through a parade of photographers, having just rebelled against the government.”
Pausing to allow for cheers and applause from the crowd, he went on to joke that he had thought his most embarrassing moment had been last week, when he had called his four-year-old son to say goodnight “from a crack den in Easington”.
However, that wasn’t the confusing part. After thanking his wife, and GQ for its continued interest in politics, he then said: “This is a pretty special evening in many ways.
“Because when I voted against the government this evening I heard that my whip has been removed.”
“It’s likely tomorrow that there’s going to be an election and I am not going to be able to stand as a member of parliament because Boris has decided he doesn’t want me in the party.
“So I’m very proud to take the award as politician of the year on the evening at which I cease to be a politician.
In comments clarifying his position the next days, Stewart said: “Strange that a decision has been made to remove the whip from so many colleagues who were ministers so recently.
“Particularly when we voted repeatedly for a Brexit deal. I can’t think of a historical precedent.
“But I am not stepping down as an MP.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today progamme the next morning, Stewart called the decision to throw him out of the party “astonishing” and said it was something “you associate with other countries” rather than Britain.
He said he had received the news of his sacking as he was being given his award.
Asked how he received the news, the Penrith and the Border MP said: “It came by text.”
He added: “It was a pretty astonishing moment. Remember, only a few weeks ago I was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party against Boris Johnson and I was in the cabinet. And it has all gone very quickly in six weeks.
“It feels a little bit like something you associate with other countries – one opposes the leader, one loses the leadership race, no longer in the cabinet and now apparently thrown out of the party and one’s seat too.”