I mean, they are clearly not his kind of people. Events conspire to prove this to Rory with a frequency that becomes comical. As a result, he begins to look like some latter-day Candide. No calamity or unpleasant personality can shake his fundamental optimism about human nature.
How we laughed...
Thus, when he asks George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, why the party is not leading on the environment, the reply is, "Because we are the Conservative party." Candide writes:
'He was, I hoped, joking. But there was certainly never any money from the Treasury.'
Osborne's cynicism is matched by the affluent guests at a posh soirée in Chelsea. One of them leans across the table and asks Rory why he became a Conservative:
'I said I believed in love of country, respect for tradition, prudence at home, restraint abroad. The table laughed. Was I then a defender of the dukes and the Anglican Church, worse too of the BBC and, though people were too polite to say it, Europe? I went home early.'
Then there is David Cameron, the man who once declared that he'd set his mind on becoming Prime Minister because he thought he might be good at it. Despite Rory's attendance at the same school as Cameron – namely Eaton – he is treated with condescending terseness.
Cameron never allows Rory into his inner circle of old Etonians, and the man from Cumbria's only revenge is to compare Parliament to a 'boarding school, stripped by scarlet fever of most of the responsible adults and all of the nicer and kinder pupils.' His fellow Etonians, we are told, lack a sense of duty or honour. The surprise is that anyone could be naïve enough to think such a sense was ever there.
More insults and condescension follow. At the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, where Rory is made under-secretary to Liz Truss, his new boss is 'startlingly rude,' openly mocking his 'antique prejudices' and lack of ambition. She displays a weird lack of basic human feeling when, on learning that his father has just died, she fails to come up with a single word of condolence. Instead, she asks him if a report is ready.
Meeting with Boris
Finally, there is Boris Johnson, another product of Eton, who gives Rory the job of dealing with Africa when his area of expertise is the Middle East and Asia.
The book unerringly captures the Johnsonian boosterism. At one point, by way of encouragement, Boris tells Rory to 'go forth and multiply!' The Foreign Secretary's persistent emphasis is on the importance of morale, a fact he claims to have learnt as captain of a rugby team. Rory suspects he is seen by Boris as one more in a line of 'prim pedantic figures' who disapproved of him: housemasters, dons, editors.
Stewart recalls meeting Boris for the first time in, of all places, Iraq. The scene is fittingly reminiscent of the days of empire. This fine passage manages to capture the mix of jingoism, levity, and utter make-believe that Johnson so often articulated:
'He had described (in the Spectator) the British military in Iraq as both a charade and a triumph, as though he was watching not a trillion-dollar occupation, but the Life Guards in their polished breast plates, trotting down the Mall. His mock-heroic nostalgia had managed to be both self-satisfied and self-deprecating. Scenes that seemed to demand the prose of the First World War were presented in the tone of the Owl and the Pussycat.'
None of this kind of thing, presumably, would be in the book if Rory Stewart hadn't noticed how obnoxious his fellow Tories could be. The insight that eludes him, however, is that they are like this for a reason.