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
TedDemoc

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 […]

rory_hunterhall2

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

CITIZENS OF BRITAIN

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, […]

Cumbria pic

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 […]

changing the world from cumbria

Last Sunday I sat with six professors who were discussing how ‘to change the world.’ They included Central European dissident, a computer specialist, and a seventy-five year old French communist.  At times they seemed hardly conscious of each other, and the words they used were puzzling (the Frenchmen for example liked to talk about ‘the happiness of dissatisfaction’). But it […]

rory_NTSkidstrees

Fixing Democracy

Teacher: “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 […]

rory_boltonvillagehall

The Acquisition of Knowledge

Things are becoming slicker and more professional, but also, at times, more second-rate. Businesses and governments boast of their new professional management. But poor documentaries are coming from good TV companies, dangerous drilling decisions from major oil companies, idiotic investments from leading development agencies. There are bad planning decisions in market towns, bad environmental policies […]

Whitehall,_London

In Praise of the Civil Service

A secret: politicians don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t mean that we are all stupid, or lazy (I can sense my father’s arched eye-brows, as I make that claim). But I mean that it is impossible for politicians to know enough. The most successful ones, of course, are brilliant at concealing this: they […]

RS

THE TRENCH WARFARE THAT BUILT THE BIG SOCIETY

Article first published in the Daily Telegraph on 4 April 2012. I am that strange creature: a believer in the Big Society. I am delighted that the Prime Minister has not given up on it – despite all the criticism – but has returned to it this week; that the Localism Act is being implemented; […]