Monthly Archives: March 2019

Rory Stewart MP with Climate Strikers


Rory Stewart MP with Climate Strikers

Rory visited Ullswater Community College to meet with students taking part in the latest ‘Climate Strike’.

These strikes were inspired by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish schoolchild who spent twenty days protesting outside the Swedish Parliament, calling for action on climate change. Inspired by her example, schoolchildren across the world have gone on strike in sympathy and in unison, in protest against the causes of Climate Change and the perceived inadequacy of the Government’s response. The last such action took place on 15 February and saw over 10,000 school children refusing to attend class, instead making signs and marching on government buildings.

On this occasion, instead of leaving the school to protest, the students of Ullswater Community College assembled in the playground to raise awareness of increasing global temperatures and to call for change. Ella Purdy, one of the event’s organisers, invited Mr Stewart to meet with the students to discuss their concerns, and he was delighted to accept.

They engaged in a productive discussion, in which the students voiced their views and Mr Stewart explained the Government’s policy programme which has clear targets for major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. They also discussed his voting record, and why the Government has favoured certain measures over others. At the end, the students thanked Mr Stewart for speaking to them.

Rory said, “Climate change is one of the great challenges of our age, and it was wonderful to see so many students engaging thoughtfully with the issue. I was very impressed by their knowledge and their passion – both of which are a real tribute to them and their teachers. We agreed on the need to combat climate change, and it was interesting to hear their views on what the Government has done and what it should do. I look forward to visiting them again to continue our discussion in due course”.

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Rory appeared on BBC News last night, in advance of the Brexit vote, to discuss the situation with Vicki Young. Watch it here:

He then spoke on The World Tonight:

He appeared today on Politics Live, hosted by Jo Coburn, and alongside Laura Hughes, Henry Newman, Anneliese Dodds and Laura Kuenssberg:

And the World At One with Jon Trickett, the Shadow Lord President of the Council:

He also spoke at a ‘Beer and Brexit’ event, hosted by UK In A Changing Europe, with Anand Menon:

And Channel 4 News on 20 March:

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Article first published on the Royal Society of Literature’s Website on 19 March 2019.

Arabian Sands

Wilfred Thesiger

While the world struggled with decolonialism, genocide, revolution and modernity, Wilfred Thesiger walked the world’s largest sand desert – 250,000 square miles – stretching across modern Yemen, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman. The landscape is largely barren, there are no monuments to admire, the days are repetitive and, yet, Thesiger turns this confusing and potentially alienating journey into a compelling and unified narrative. His physical endurance makes Arabian Sands a unique and final witness of a particular aspect of Arabic nomadic life.

The Natural History of Aleppo

Alexander and Patrick Russell

This combined work, by the Russell brothers who, between them, spent 31 months in 18th century Aleppo, remains the most comprehensive and compelling account of the city written in any foreign language. Their intellectual ambition is overwhelming – they examine everything – from agricultural techniques to clothing, horse furniture and every step of the massage in the hamam. They acquired their knowledge not in disguise but through long medical practice and, as a result, they describe places and customs rarely witnessed by foreigners.

The Ruin of Britain


Gildas’ rhetoric – deeply marked by classical and biblical references, analogies with the apocalypse, and a sense of being isolated at the edge of the known world – is evocative of a society conscious of its own decline. The author – a sixth century monk – experienced Britain as a crushed, impoverished ex-colony – abandoned by the Romans – and a society with no records or sense of its own past.

The Barburnama: Memoirs of Babur


The author – the founder of the Mughal Empire – tells the story of his journey through Afghanistan on foot with impressive modesty and – though what he did was very dangerous – he doesn’t draw attention to this. Instead he focuses on the people he meets and uses the portraits of these individuals to describe their society as a whole.

Rory Stewart MP Presenting The Petition


Rory Stewart MP Presenting The Petition

Almost four thousand people have signed a petition to save Penrith Post Office, which Rory gave to a representative from the Post Office’s management on Friday.

The petition, started by Mr Stewart and supported by a cross-party coalition of councillors, received a total of 3,682 signatures, which is equivalent to around 25% of Penrith’s population. The names were collected on physical copies of the petition which were circulated around the town, in addition to an online version which received around 1,500 signatures. The petition was handed to Richard Hall, External Affairs Manager, at a meeting on Friday, at which Mr Stewart again made clear the reasons why he and the town oppose the proposed relocation.

The Post Office announced its intention to relocate its Penrith operation from the current standalone site on Crown Square to the WH Smith on Angel Square in January. At the same time, a consultation was launched, to gauge the community’s views on the plans, with many raising concerns about the size and suitability of the space selected.

Rory said, “I would like to thank everybody who signed and supported this petition, which I am hopeful will make the Post Office’s management think again. The wonderful response which the petition received makes clear that the strength and breadth of opposition to this relocation and the community’s satisfaction with the current arrangement. Mr Hall listened to the concerns that we expressed on Friday – particularly about space and access in the new site – and I will continue to make this case in further meetings”.




Rory is delighted to launch The Reiver Ride – a journey through The Forgotten Lands to celebrate the rich Border Reiving history of the area.

The Reiver Ride on Saturday, September 7th, is the first of what will become an annual event, with different routes every year. Riders are invited to choose between two routes – 18 and 12.5 miles – both of which take riders on a journey past former bastle houses, pele towers and through the stunning countryside of this forgotten part of Cumbria.

The routes have been devised by Mr Stewart and local equestrian business owners Chris Parsons and Pam Copeland with help from local farmers and the Bewcastle Hunt. There will be pit stops for food at six miles at Bailey Mill and 12 miles at The Row. The routes are predominantly on quiet, country roads but there will be opportunities for gallops through fields and canters through woods. In the evening, The Reiver Ball will be held at Roadhead Village Hall with live music and a bar.

Mr Stewart first had the idea for The Reiver Ride to raise the profile of the The Forgotten Lands – the north east corner of Cumbria. The area is one of the very last examples of historic farmed landscape in Britain, where traditions and the farm buildings themselves go back unbroken over a period of at least six centuries.

Mr Stewart said: “I am thrilled to launch The Reiver Ride, which I hope will become a firm fixture in every riders’ calendar in Cumbria and The Borders. I was keen to hold an event that celebrated the Reiving history of this very special area, which has a great, strong community of small family farms. Many farmers inherited the land from their ancestors and feel deep ties to the land that nurtured and shaped them. And the names of the farms today are exactly those preserved in the bard ballads – most famously ‘The Fray of Suport’, which describes a ‘hot trod’ when an English resident from Solport attempted to regain his property stolen by Scottish Border Reivers. I’m very much looking forward to dusting off my riding hat and riding across the lands the Reivers would have known and seeing the same landscapes as they did hundreds of years ago.”

There are many deep layers of history in the Forgotten Lands. The centre of the area is the Bewcastle Cross, where The Reiver Ride will starts and end this year and which was described by the scholar Nikolaus Pevsner as the greatest piece of sculpture created in the early 8th century. Beneath it lies one of the most unusual Roman Forts in the entire Roman Empire – with a hexagonal rather than square or oblong base occupied by the Dacian regiment. And even further beneath that a still older Celtic pre-Roman shrine – the shrine of the god Cocidius – a god worshipped in early Britain, especially in the north and west, whom the Romans compared to Mars. Beside the Cross stands the ruins of one of the great castles of the Border – that of Bewcastle – and in the churchyard, the tombs of the Armstrong and Routledges who led the Border Reiving in the area. Today their lineal descendants maintain a proud sense of their Reiving history and have preserved unbroken traditions of stockmanship.

Farmer Steve Pattinson, of Roadhead, said: “We’re very proud of our history in this area – there’s so much north of Hadrian’s Wall up here and most people don’t even know about it. Really we’re Cumbria’s best kept secret but it is definitely time people knew more about our history and were given the chance to wonder at the beauty of the land up here. I’m very much looking forward to taking part.”

Pam Copeland, of Bailey Mill Accommodation and Trekking Centre, said: “This ride is a fantastic opportunity to introduce people to our historic area and explore our wild countryside. The Reiver Ride is offering people something unique – the chance to get a hint of what it felt like to be a Border Reiver riding around these lands hundreds of years ago.”

Chris Parsons, from Off The Beaten Track Rides, said: “I know people are going to absolutely love this ride! The first gallop up the hill to Peel O’Hill is absolutely breathtaking. I would encourage all riders to get involved. And we already have ideas for routes over the next few years – this is only the beginning.”

Anyone wanting to take part in the ride should email [email protected] asking for an entry form. Numbers may be limited – on a first come first serve basis – due to parking restrictions.

Rory Stewart MP


Rory has welcomed the news that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will invest a record £260 million in the Borderlands Growth Deal (BGD).

Philip Hammond announced a UK government commitment of £260 million to the BGD in his Spring Statement in the House of Commons this afternoon. Together with funding from the Scottish government, this brings the total figure to £345million and is the largest investment yet seen in the project.

Mr Stewart began pushing for a BGD before the Scottish Referendum while he was a Minister at DEFRA, as a way of acknowledging how much the communities across the English-Scottish border have in common. This place-based investment strategy is designed to bolster economic growth in the rural communities of northern England and Southern Scotland. It previously received support from the Chancellor in his 2017 Budget and today’s announcement indicates the Government’s interest in and commitment to the region.

As well as welcoming the news, Mr Stewart has expressed the hope that, when details are disclosed, both tourism and broadband will receive significant investment. He has long championed rural digital connectivity and argued in meetings with ministers that the digital proposals contained within the BGD are absolutely vital to the success of the Deal as a whole. Connecting the most remote rural communities to reliable, fast broadband or 4G, though it has often proved difficult, makes an immense difference to people’s lives.

Commenting on this, Mr Stewart said: “The Spring Statement brings further good news on the strength of our economy. Nine years of consecutive growth, falling borrowing and debt, 3.5 million new jobs, the fastest rate of wage growth in over a decade and positive predictions from the Office of Budgetary Responsibility all give grounds for confidence.

“I am particularly pleased that the Chancellor has pledged such significant investment in the Borderlands Growth Deal. This is an incredibly special part of the United Kingdom and now that the funding for the Borderlands Growth Deal has been secured, we can really start to tap into its potential. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how investment in the area’s tourism and broadband will make a real difference to people’s lives.

“I will continue to work closely with ministers, MPs and councillors on both sides of the Border as we make the Deal a reality.”

Save Penrith psot office


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Rory is to present his petition to stop the planned closure of Penrith Post Office to its management on 15 March.

The Post Office announced its intention to relocate its Penrith operation from the current standalone site on Crown Square to the WH Smith on Angel Square in January. At the same time, a consultation was launched, to gauge the community’s views on the plans, with many raising concerns about the size and suitability of the space selected.

Rory, who shared the community’s concerns, launched an online petition to stop this move in February, which quickly amassed over a thousand signatures. At the same time, paper copies were circulated around Penrith, which gained many more names. These will be collected over the coming days, and the complete petition will be presented to Richard Hall, External Affairs Manager on Friday.

Rory said, “I have serious concerns about the planned relocation of the Penrith Post Office, as I have repeatedly made clear to its management. I very much hope that, by presenting this petition, I will demonstrate the will of the people of Penrith who collectively oppose the move to Angel Square. The current site is spacious and appropriate to the needs of the community and I hope that the management recognise this and agree to cancel the move”.

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Rory, in his capacity as Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, appeared on BBC London News to discuss the state of the capital’s prisons while on a visit to Wormwood Scrubs. Watch it here:




Rory appeared on BBC World Questions last week, on a panel chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby, featuring Hilary Benn, Lara Spirit and Isabel Oakeshott. Listen to it here: