On Changing Britain

raftTeacher: “What does your father do, little Billy?” “He plays the piano in an opium den”. Teacher calls home. Father: “I lied: but how can you tell an eight year old boy that his father is a politician?”

In polls, more than eighty per cent of the public feel ‘politics is broken’. When strangers discover I’m a politician they often look at me as though they are unsure whether I am a snake or a monkey. And all the questions they ask – put as politely as they can – imply they are astonished by our ignorance, our shoddiness, and our incompetence. Which leaves democracy in a strange position. Our democracy has been developing for four hundred years, the British people have never been so educated or confident, but the gap between public and politicians has never felt larger: citizens are deeply disappointed in their politicians. The same is true in almost every ‘democratic’ country.

Show more


For many decades, Cumbrian planners have tried to create economic growth by backing large Cumbrian industries. This is understandable because our industrial revolution was a miracle. The slow growth of our traditional rural economy, celebrated by Wordsworth, was blown apart in the second half of the nineteenth century, as we tore into the land, extracting […]

Rory PR 2

Politics: A Dozen Small Things

Written for the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald, Publ. Dec 1st 2017 When I lived outside Britain, I felt that the greatest problem in Britain was injustice. Once I became a ‘parliamentary candidate’ I began to feel that the problem was that government was completely out of touch with reality on the ground, and that the […]


Herald Column

Article first published in The Herald on 1 April 2017. About every three weeks, I seem to be perched on the edge of a desk – sometimes a comically small desk – talking politics in a classroom. Some Cumbrian schools have only twelve students, some have one and a half thousand. But the conversations are […]


Thoughts on my father

I have spent a lot of the last four years thinking about my father, and writing about him, and walks through Cumbria, in a book, published last week, called The Marches. I thought – at first – that I could learn more about him by interviewing him. Often, therefore, when we sat down for dinner […]


Tackling Food Waste

I am the Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs. The job includes rural communities, wildlife, national parks, forestry, rivers (fish, irrigation, drinking water, and flooding), air quality, and more. And although I have to travel around the country, a lot of this brings me back to Cumbria. Two weeks ago, for example, I began by […]


What kind of place do we want Cumbria to be?

What kind of place do we want Cumbria to be in twenty years’ time? Or in two hundred years’ time? Our lives are still shaped by political decisions made centuries ago. We travel on railway lines, and drink from reservoirs, first laid by the Victorians. We look at scenery created by neolithic farmers and nineteenth […]


TED Talks – Why democracy matters

The public is losing faith in democracy, says British MP Rory Stewart. Iraq and Afghanistan’s new democracies are deeply corrupt; meanwhile, 84 percent of people in Britain say politics is broken. In this important talk, Stewart sounds a call to action to rebuild democracy, starting with recognizing why democracy is important — not as a […]


The Opium is our Children

First published in INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine in 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 […]

National Citizen Service


Last weekend I met some charity volunteers in Alston. It was a warm, late summer day – none of the leaves yet falling – and the volunteers were heading cheerfully into the hills. Twenty other groups were setting off at the same moment: all from different points along a route that Alfred Wainwright first walked […]

22-10-2013 11-15-33

History For Politicians of Today

Why should a policy-maker study history? After all, the more you examine history, the more bewildered you become. Even for the few periods for which records survive, what we know confuses us. Our forefathers believed in things, which we struggle to understand. They died for countries like the Kingdom of Cumbria, which have now vanished, […]