RORY Stewart has outlined the country has a choice between "fairy stories" and "realism".

Launching his leadership campaign in Central London today, the MP for Penrith and Tory leadership hopeful said: "What I have heard again and again is that what people feel they need in this country is leadership. People are asking why at this moment I wish to take up this 'poisoned chalice' I keep hearing again and again.

"Why would you want to be Prime Minister, what a terrible time.

"But it is exactly now that we have to make a choice of two different paths in our country. We stand at a crossroads.

"On the one hand is a choice of something that I don't want to call populism, I don't want to call it populism because I believe in people, which is the reason I am here and the reason I talk to you is that I believe in listening and talking to people. I believe in people."

According to Mr Stewart, the country has two choices: "On the one hand of fairy story and on the other hand of the energy of prudence, of seriousness, of realism, that is going to make this so much better, a much happier country."

He went on to say: "I am going to speak about the great prancing elephant in the room, in this big circus tent. I am speaking not about the leading leadership contender. The great elephant in the tent is of course this vision that I don't call populism, but I call negativism.

"It is summed up in the phrase 'no-deal', which is not just no to a deal but no to everything. It is no to Europe, no to Parliament, no to reality. We are not a 'no' country."

Asked about a cross-party bid to block a no-deal Brexit and prevent peroration of Parliament, Mr Stewart said: "I am entirely against no deal. I am entirely against peroration.

"I haven't read the details of this. My instinct is I would be wholly supportive of a move that tried to do that."

Mr Stewart appeared to question whether Mr Johnson as PM would the right person to give orders to the commanders of Britain's nuclear strike force.

Asked about Mr Johnson, Mr Stewart said he had spoken to Conservative Party associations across the UK stating: "When you ask them, do you really - and I don't want to make this too personal - do you really feel that this is the person that you want engaging with the detail and the future of your health and education system?

"Is this the person that you want writing the instructions to the nuclear submarines?

"Is this the person that you want embodying the nation on the world stage and guiding you through the most difficult choice that Britain has faced for 50 years?

"I trust the Conservative members to arrive at the correct answers."

Mr Stewart said the "threat of a Brexit Assembly" could be held over MPs if they failed to agree on EU withdrawal.

He said the move would see "a grand jury of citizens" sit for three weeks to try and work out a way forward.

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray was among the audience at the launch and publicly challenged Mr Stewart to revoke Article 50 and end EU withdrawal.

Mr Bray has drawn attention for standing in the background of news reports carrying banners condemning Brexit.