As part of the Words by the Water festival in Keswick, local Penrith and The Border MP, Rory Stewart, spoke alongside Baroness Shirley Williams and Lord Richard Inglewood, in an hour-long debate that focused on the state of British politics, and why so many of us feel disengaged and disaffected. Rory Stewart suggested that a lack of trust in politics was partly the result of its removal from our everyday lives, and called for a far greater move towards localism, devolving more power to local authorities, and promoting the idea of local mayors to restore a clearer sense of local accountability. The Cumbrian MP also agreed that more needed to be done to encourage women to become involved in politics, and offered to support Baroness Shirley Williams’ campaign to tackle abusive internet users, who are currently able to hide behind anonymity when posting aggressive and abusive comments – often aimed at high profile women in particular.

With a different take on localism, Rory Stewart also spoke to a full audience later in the afternoon on the need for a much deeper understanding of local culture, history, politics and language, if Britain is to remain a relevant and helpful force in many of the world’s most unstable countries and conflict zones. Focusing on Yemen and Libya in particular, Rory Stewart explained how a poor understanding of politics on-the-ground in the two countries, left British diplomatic and military services unable to predict how events would unfold, and unable to propose any serious solutions.

Speaking after the talks, Rory Stewart said:

“Words by the Water is a really great event, and provides a forum for some really interesting debate and discussion. That almost no one in the audience this morning, when asked, expressed the desire to ever become an MP is a worrying indication about the state of British politics. But unless we have more conversations like this one, and bring politics much closer to people’s everyday lives, then we are unlikely to come up with any real solutions.”

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