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Rory Stewart denies he has ever been a spy

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Rory Stewart fronted a documentary in 2012 about Afghanistan called The Great Game. He has been accused of being a spy

Rory Stewart fronted a documentary in 2012 about Afghanistan called The Great Game. He has been accused of being a spy

Rory Stewart has denied claims he has ever been a spy, despite previously admitting his career ‘gave the appearance’ he worked for MI6.

The Tory leadership contender was asked about the long-running rumours he previously worked for the intelligence services at a hustings.

The 46-year-old denied claims he worked for MI6 prior to becoming MP for Penrith and the Border in 2010.

But a source told the Telegraph that Mr Stewart – the current International Development Secretary – was recruited soon after he left Oxford and spent seven years as a spy.

Mr Stewart is thought to have been ‘fast tracked’ after he left the prestigious University in the nineties.

Mr Stewart worked for the Foreign Office in Indonesia between 1997 and 1999 and later after the invasion of Iraq in 2003  became deputy to the U.S. ‘governorate co-ordinator’ in the country. 

The MP for Penrith and Border has long faced questions about a possible past in espionage, especially considering his father, Brian Stewart, worked for British overseas intelligence for more than 20 years.

Furthermore, in a profile on Mr Stewart, by The New Yorker in 2010, a London source tells the author of the piece Ian Parkin that the newly elected Tory MP ‘certainly was’ a spy. 

Rory Stewart appearing in the documentary The Great Game, which tells the story of foreign intervention in Afghanistan

Rory Stewart appearing in the documentary The Great Game, which tells the story of foreign intervention in Afghanistan

Prince Charles, meets veteran Brian Stewart, whose portrait was painted by Paul Benney, during a visit to the D-Day Veterans portrait exhibition - 'The Last Of The Tide' at The Queen's Gallery on June 12, 2015

Prince Charles, meets veteran Brian Stewart, whose portrait was painted by Paul Benney, during a visit to the D-Day Veterans portrait exhibition – ‘The Last Of The Tide’ at The Queen’s Gallery on June 12, 2015

The Tory leadership contender (pictured in Afghanistan in his twenties) was asked about the long-running rumours he previously worked for the intelligence services prior to becoming an MP at a hustings

The Tory leadership contender (pictured in Afghanistan in his twenties) was asked about the long-running rumours he previously worked for the intelligence services prior to becoming an MP at a hustings

In the interview, when his mother was asked about the claim she smiled and said: ‘I wouldn’t begin to know.’

Mr Parkin suggested it would be ‘frustrating’ for him if he was ‘under a legal and moral obligation to mislead’.

Mr Stewart responded it was ‘an unfair question’ but later suggested a phrase the journalist might use, such as his career ‘giving the appearance of’ such a path.

But Mr Stewart has previously pointed out that MI6 intelligence officers are bound by the Official Secrets Act so ‘even if you found someone who was an intelligence officer, they wouldn’t tell you they were an intelligence officer.’

The claims add intrigue to the leadership contest, as Mr Stewart is thought to have catapulted himself ahead of rivals Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid.

Now Theresa May’s deputy David Lidington backs Rory Stewart as the former wildcard Tory leadership candidate gets late surge of support from MPs who want to see Boris Johnson ‘knocked down a peg or two’

Tory leadership wildcard Rory Stewart picked up the backing of Theresa May’s de-facto deputy prime minister tonight as his unlikely campaign took another leap forward.

David Lidington became the latest MP to come out for the International Development Secretary on the day he rose to second  in the betting behind runaway favourite Boris Johnson.

The surge by the Cumbria MP saw several of his leadership rivals turn their fire on him today, afraid that a ‘blue on blue’ battle with Mr Johnson during 16 broadcast hustings will damage the party’s reputation at a time it is under huge pressure.   

Mr Lidington is a close supporter of Mrs May and backed Matt Hancock in the first round, before he chose to withdraw. 

But he did not follow the Health Secretary in backing Boris Johnson.

A source said: ‘Rory is incredibly proud to have the support of David Lidington – the deputy prime minister. 

‘(It is) A huge vote of confidence not just in Rory’s campaign, but in his ability to deliver as Prime Minister.’

Reports have suggested MPs who dislike the former foreign secretary were moving behind Mr Stewart as the main challenger candidate.      

Mr Lidington is a close supporter of Mrs May and backed Matt Hancock in the first round

Mr Lidington is a close supporter of Mrs May and backed Matt Hancock in the first round

Mr Stewart told GMB today (pictured) that if he worked for Boris Johnson he would have to ‘advocate for a no deal Brexit that I think can’t be delivered’

Mr Stewart is pictured with a pint on London's Southbank this afternoon. Mr Stewart again flip-flopped today over whether he would serve in a Mr Johnson Cabinet, telling Good Morning Britain he '100 per cent' would not

Mr Stewart is pictured with a pint on London’s Southbank this afternoon. Mr Stewart again flip-flopped today over whether he would serve in a Mr Johnson Cabinet, telling Good Morning Britain he ‘100 per cent’ would not

The International Development Secretary is desperately trying to get over the threshold of 33 votes he needs to survive the second round of the contest tomorrow.

Mr Stewart only secured 19 votes last week, but insisted that he still believes he can round up the necessary backers. At a hustings event in Westminster he claimed he would get over the bar if MPs ‘do what they say’ and have not been lying to him.

The scramble came as Mr Stewart stepped up his attack on front runner Mr Johnson after bookmakers had him leapfrogging Jeremy Hunt as the closest challenger.

Mr Hunt also taunted the favourite this morning, saying he needed to find some ‘Churchillian courage’. 

While Michael Gove attempted to halt some of the momentum gathering behind Mr Stewart by warning his party to only let candidates who ‘believe in Brexit’ get into the final round.

The environment secretary told The Times, : ‘It would be a mistake to put forward two candidates to the final round who will polarise our party.’

Mr Stewart has won more backers overnight after putting in a strong performance in the Channel 4 TV debate, with minister Margot James and Scottish Tory Paul Masterson declaring their support. Dame Caroline Spelman has also signed up to his cause.

But Mr Stewart again flip-flopped today over whether he would serve in a Mr Johnson Cabinet, telling Good Morning Britain he ‘100 per cent’ would not.

Only last Friday he had said he would be ‘honoured to serve if, as expected, Mr Johnson is voted Tory leader and prime minister by Tory members next month. 

Mr Johnson (pictured leaving his London home today) is the runaway favourite to replace Theresa May and Conservative leader and prime minister

Mr Johnson (pictured leaving his London home today) is the runaway favourite to replace Theresa May and Conservative leader and prime minister

Mr Stewart has been installed as second favourite in the Tory leadership race - albeit a long way behind Mr Johnson

Mr Stewart has been installed as second favourite in the Tory leadership race – albeit a long way behind Mr Johnson 

As the Conservative leadership struggle careered towards its denoument today:

  • Allies of Mr Johnson dismissed talk of an electoral pact with Nigel Farage, saying he did not ‘need’ a deal despite the rising threat from the new Brexit Party;
  • Michael Gove heaped praise on Mr Johnson saying he ‘has what it takes’ to be PM as manoeuvring ratchets up for jobs in the new regime; 
  • Jeremy Hunt took aim at Speaker John Bercow for failing to be ‘impartial’ in Brexit debates in the House of Commons; 
  • Sajid Javid attacked Donald Trump for criticising knife crime in London, saying he should stop interfering and levels were ’10 times higher’ in the US; 

At the hustings in Parliament today, Mr Stewart was asked about Mr Johnson and said: ‘he doesn’t, as far as I can see, have a plan.’

Mr Stewart highlighted that Mr Johnson had been wooing moderates like Matt Hancock – who today backed him for the leadership – as well as hardliners like Mark Francois. 

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‘He seems to be having different relationships in different rooms with people who are not talking to each other,’ Mr Stewart said. 

The Cabinet minister said he hoped he could win more Tories over to support Theresa May’s divorce deal from the EU. But he admitted Labour MPs for Brexit-backing areas, such as Lisa Nandy, would also be needed.

‘I have to reach out to Lisa Nandy from Wigan,’ he said.

But Mr Stewart also admitted he still ‘does not know’ if he can secure the 33 votes from MPs needed to make it through the next ballot tomorrow. He only had 19 backers in the first round last Tuesday. 

Earlier, Mr Stewart said his principles over No Deal Brexit – which he has ruled out backing if he becomes prime minister – would stop him from working for a leader who advocated it.

‘In order to be Boris’s foreign secretary or international development secretary, I would have to sit on your programme and advocate for a no deal Brexit that I think can’t be delivered, is going to lead to delay…’ he told GMB. 

He was later challenged by Susanna Reid over the fact that he backed Remain in 2016 and then agreed to respect the referendum result to deliver Brexit, with the presenter asking whether a Boris Johnson win would give him a mandate for a No Deal Brexit.

Mr Stewart replied: ‘There are two votes that I really deeply respect. I respect the result of a referendum, I respect the result of a general election.

‘I’m a loyal Conservative, so I’m not going to bring down a Boris Johnson Government, but I cannot serve in a cabinet and advocate for something I don’t believe in.’ 

Mr Stewart is now 12/1 with Betfair and 10/1 with Ladbrokes.

While he is in second he is a long way behind Mr Johnson, who is the odds-on favourite.

The former foreign secretary is also miles ahead in polling of Conservative members who will ultimately decide the new party leader.

Tory MPs while whittle the candidates down to a final two who will then face a vote of the wider party. Three have been knocked out already and Mr Hancock stepped down before the second round ballot.

The battle for the keys to No10 is turning nasty as contenders desperately struggle to overhaul Mr Johnson’s commanding lead. 

They are scrambling to pick up votes from those already eliminated – with Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who had 20 supporters, making a surprise decision to back Mr Johnson.

During the hustings today, Sajid Javid (pictured leaving his London home today) delivered an extraordinary rebuke to Donald Trump for criticising the UK over a spate of knife crime

During the hustings today, Sajid Javid (pictured leaving his London home today) delivered an extraordinary rebuke to Donald Trump for criticising the UK over a spate of knife crime

Last night all remaining candidates except Mr Johnson took part in a Channel 4 leadership debate.

The rivals crossed swords early on, with Mr Stewart accusing his Brexiteer colleagues of ‘macho’ posturing and demanding to know how they planned to take the UK out of the EU by the end of October without approval from parliament.

Dominic Raab shot back that he had resigned from the Cabinet ‘on principle’ and politicians had to keep their word. ‘I’m the only one who can be trusted to get us out by the end of October,’ he said, repeating his vow to suspend the Commons if necessary to stop it blocking No Deal. 

Meanwhile, a new poll gave Mr Johnson a major boost and dashed the hopes of Mr Stewart.

It found more than three quarters of Tory members believe the former foreign secretary would make a good leader but fewer than one in three thought the same about the Aid Secretary.

The YouGov survey reinforces the view that if Mr Johnson makes it onto the final ballot paper when two candidates are put to grassroots activists to choose from he will be almost impossible to stop.

Some 77 per cent of Conservative Party members believe Mr Johnson would make a good Tory leader while just 19 per cent believe he would do a poor job.

Mr Johnson is also viewed by the general public as the candidate most likely to make a good leader as he was backed by 31 per cent of voters.

Mr Stewart was the only remaining Tory leadership contender who failed to be viewed positively by a majority of Tory members.

Just 31 per cent said Mr Stewart would be a good leader compared to 50 per cent who said he would be a poor choice.

The poll will be welcomed by Dominic Raab who had the second highest rating among the Tory grassroots.

Some 68 per cent said the former Brexit secretary would make a good leader and 21 per cent said he would be a bad choice.

Mr Johnson’s allies dismissed talk of a Brexit pact with Nigel Farage today – as he won the backing of former rival Matt Hancock. 

Supporters of the Tory front runner insisted he did not ‘need’ to do a deal with Mr Farage, despite the rising threat from his new party. 

The rebuke came amid claims Conservative donors are plotting a tie-up with Mr Farage that could prevent the Eurosceptic vote from splitting at an election.

The arrangement could mean the Brexit Party does not field candidates against Tories they see as sound on making a clean break from the EU. 

Mr Johnson’s procession towards Downing Street gathered pace today as the Health Secretary backed him – amid claims he has already started promising Cabinet jobs.  

Mr Hancock dropped out on Friday after a disappointing result in the first round ballot, but has now put himself in the running to be the next Chancellor by endorsing the favourite.

The support of a former Remainer and Cabinet heavyweight further reinforces Mr Johnson’s status as PM-in-waiting. Michael Gove also appeared to be trying to smooth relations this morning, rejecting the idea that Mr Johnson should be ruled out on grounds of ‘moral probity’ and praising his pro-business record.

During the hustings today, Mr Javid delivered an extraordinary rebuke to Donald Trump, who has condemned London mayor Sadiq Khan for failing to deal with knife crime.

‘President Trump should stick to domestic politics. It’s unbecoming of the leader of a great state to interfere in other countries’ politics,’ he said.

‘The president of the United States is right to be concerned about serious violence but he should be concerned about serious violence in the United States which is ten times higher than it is here.’

Mr Javid has voiced unhappiness at being snubbed from Mr Trump’s state banquet during his visit to the UK earlier this month – although Downing Street is adamant the US president had no role in the decision to leave him off the invite list.  

 

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