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The Public Point of View

My father died just over a year ago. I dreamt about him last night. Thinking about him, I’m reminded of two things today: first, that he loved me; and second, that he was – to put it mildly – puzzled by my choice of profession. He never saw the point of parliament, which he thought a ‘giant talking shop.’ […]

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RORY STEWART MP CHAMPIONS CUMBRIAN PRODUCERS

Rory Stewart MP met with local producers in Penrith last week to discuss the upcoming ‘Cumbria Day’ in London, which he is organising along with fellow Cumbrian MP’s; John Stevenson, Sue Heyman, Jamie Reed and Tim Farron. It would be the second event of its kind, celebrating Cumbrian business, and in particular, it’s speciality food […]

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Our culture excludes the old when they have so much to contribute

First published by The Observer Parliament talks ceaselessly of “the next generation”. But, in Cumbria, where I’m an MP, voluntary activity and politics are generally driven by people over the age of 55. Every village seems to have a retired engineer attempting to build a community fibre-optic cable network and baffling the most confident civil servant […]

Penrith Castle

A monument for Penrith

Why does Penrith not have a central memorial commemorating the First World War? Indeed why is there so little sculpture at all? The old First World War memorials are almost completely hidden and forgotten. The only really first-rate sculpture is the Giant’s Tomb in St. Andrew’s Square. It is wonderful – raw hogback stones, soaring […]

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Why Foreign Policy Matters

Has Britain given up on foreign affairs? Many say ‘We don’t have an Empire anymore’; or that ‘We are not a rich country.’ That has been said since Indian independence in 1947, or perhaps since our economic fragility was laid bare at the end of the First World War. Some ask ‘What right have we […]

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The Opium is our Children

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, November/December 2013 If a Roman senator’s opium was his public life, a Viking’s was battle. Our ancestors have been addicted to honour, craved virtue and wealth, been hooked on conquest, on adventure, and on God. But ours is the first civilisation to find its deepest fulfilment in its descendants. Our opium is […]

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LONGTOWN’S PAST AND FUTURE

The Longtown munitions depot, which has been threatened with closure for years, has been saved today. We have preserved two hundred jobs in an area where there is not enough good employment. It is very good news. But this story didn’t begin in 2005 when the first announcement of closure was made. In 1914 the […]

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THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE MIDDLELAND

Cumbrians and Northumbrians must have felt isolated and marginalised fourteen hundred years ago. Agriculture had collapsed around them, the population had plummeted, there had not been a new road or stone building constructed in two centuries. Education, industry, and trade had collapsed. We were one of the most underdeveloped places in Europe or Asia. But […]

Eden Valley and the North Pennines

ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE LAND

It is August 1805, two friends have risen early, on a cold Cumbrian morning, to climb Striding edge to Helvellyn. The previous night, they are recognised in the inn, but they have fun pretending not to be who they are. They are well-educated, have travelled abroad, and have lived in great capital cities. But their […]

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british rural identity

I stood, on Sunday, with a friend, looking at his fields, which slope down, from the fellside to the water. The river was in spate, and silver lakes had formed in the meadows. He had got up early, to save his Swaledales from drowning. But where was he to put them? His drier fields, to […]