Facing competition from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, Conservative lawmakers are rallying to Mr. Johnson, who they believe is the only person with the charisma to save them from a crushing election defeat. Mr. Johnson is highly popular with party members, so the contest appears to be his to lose.
Yet, the momentum Mr. Stewart had gathered was boosted when he performed well in a televised debate on Sunday hosted by Channel 4. He failed to repeat that success on Tuesday night, when he was unable to impose himself on a more chaotic BBC debate with the other candidates. At one point Mr. Stewart removed his tie in apparent frustration.
On Brexit, Mr. Stewart has taken on the hard-liners, arguing that Mr. Johnson’s pledge to take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 — and if necessary without a deal — would be stopped by Parliament and was therefore an empty threat. Mr. Stewart derided suggestions from other candidates that Parliament might be suspended to bypass objections to an exit without an agreement.
On Tuesday, Mr. Johnson appeared to waver over his promise to meet the October Brexit deadline, saying that an exit then was “eminently feasible.”
Mr. Stewart had also made the hardest hitting attacks on Mr. Johnson’s character, questioning his ability to master details and his suitability to be prime minister.
So the conspiracy theorists may be onto something, if only to the extent that Conservative lawmakers who had supported him decided that giving Mr. Stewart a platform to attack Mr. Johnson’s record for several more weeks would ultimately damage the party’s long-term prospects and only help the opposition Labour Party.
Mr. Stewart’s campaign has undoubtedly raised his public profile and would normally help him secure a top job in the next cabinet. He has, however, ruled out the possibility of serving under Mr. Johnson, whose campaign looks unstoppable.
U.K. Maverick Rory Stewart Knocked Out of Race for Party Leader – The New York Times