Rory Stewart has compared his on-the-ground campaigning style to Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 leadership victory, calling the Labour leader’s approach to winning support “invigorating”.
The Tory leadership contender – who is now second favourite to replace Theresa May in Number 10 – said there was “something in” claims he is the Conservative Party’s answer to Corbyn.
“I obviously do not really admire Jeremy Corbyn’s great views on Central American politics and I’m not a great student of Jeremy Corbyn’s economics,” Stewart told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday.
“But I think one of the things he has done is he has completely transformed the membership of the Labour Party – he quadrupled the number of members.”
However, Corbyn didn’t takeover Labour in a “geeky” way, the international development secretary continued.
“He simply did it because he enjoyed talking to people and he believes in what he says and one of the things that I found so invigorating about it is that it feels like much more old-fashioned politics.”
Like Corbyn’s leadership rallies, Stewart has also seen hundreds of people gather to hear him talk at Speakers’ Corner, he said, adding that “it’s beginning to feel like we’re getting back to real, old-fashioned politics”.
Asked whether he could convince the Tory membership to vote for him, Stewart said he was a “deep Conservative”.
“I’m not ashamed of the fact that a lot of Lib Dem and Labour voters say that they would like to vote for us,” he added. “That’s how you win elections and you can only change the country if you win an election.”
However, Stewart is a long way from a general election – he must first get through the second round of voting by Tory MPs this afternoon.
In order to remain in the leadership race, the former prisons minister must not only avoid ranking last, but must have the support of 33 MPs. During the last ballot, Stewart scraped through by two votes.
If he makes it through today’s vote, he will face-off against his fellow remaining leadership contenders – including Boris Johnson – in a BBC debate.