Monthly Archives: March 2013

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 the North, had rare herbs, and he had agreed with Natural England, not to put more sheep on them. And he owned no other fields. When he began, he had thirty acres – like others in the valley. Now, he has a hundred but that counts as a small farm today. A bad year, like this one, with poor sheep prices, torrential rain, and water-logged ground, could be catastrophic. He guessed that within a generation there would only be two farms left in the whole valley – large ranches, with hired labour – and all the remaining farmhouses would become homes for the wealthy. His sheep were dying “many because of fluke, but others, I feel, are just giving up.” As I walked up the fellside, I passed another dead sheep sprawled across a yellow-ant tussock.

This Monday, there was a debate in Parliament on funding for rural councils. I wanted to try to explain how the funding for schools, transport or housing, was the key to preserving our small farms, and our communities. I was joined by a dozen colleagues from other rural seats. Each speech focused on statistics and regulation: with jargon like “discrepancies in formula grants”, and “damping”. They demonstrated that people in rural councils received fifty per cent less per head than urban areas, paid more council tax, and received fewer services. The grant ignored the cost of heating rural homes, low wages, and minimal public transport. We begged for a little more money. But the ministers sat, shaking their heads, at every plea. One said, he’d just heard the same argument made for urban areas.  And they had their own statistics. They appeared to feel that it was all just special pleading.

How do you convince someone in an urban area, to care about the nature of rural communities? That was our problem. Some made arguments on food security (the protein that is fed on our wet grass, will become more valuable as the world population grows, and wealthy Indians and Chinese want to eat more meat). Others argued that tourism is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the rural economy: and people come to Cumbria not to see a picturesque wilderness, but to be part of a historical human landscape and community. But such economic arguments can always be answered with another blizzard of statistics, suggesting we can make money in a different way.

What we were failing to convey – or the ministers were failing to grasp – was, that living rural communities should also be seen as part of what makes for everyone’s British identity. (In other words, even the sense of nation which someone has in London gains strength from the reality of living villages). We are one of the most advanced developed countries in the world. It is over two hundred years since we began to clear our countryside of people, and lay mills, and factories, tenements, and civic palaces, across green fields. And yet by a miracle, we have preserved still some traces of where we began. But this precious survival is very fragile.  Our organic, living communities — our young families, small farms, remaining schools, and men like my neighbour – are under extraordinary pressure from a dozen directions: from new environmental regulations, from fuel costs, and the vast powerful forces, which undercut all small rural shops, services, and farms, day after day. (Who can stand up to a supermarket?)

Without support, the character, and culture, and history of our rural areas will be lost forever. And we would become a land composed only of wealthy people who have moved to escape the cities. Cumbria is not the slopes of Spain, where the hillside is scarred and packed with half-completed concrete time-shares. Nor is it yet New Hampshire, where you can walk from house to holiday cottage, through scrubby woodland, aware only when you stumble across a half-broken dry-stone wall, that there were once any small farms at all. We are different even from the Scottish borders. Cross from Kershope to Newcastleton, and you are into a landscape of 2,000 acre farms, whose tenants have moved in from other areas of Scotland. The sheep in the heather are untended, and field after field has not a human in sight. Cumbria is – by some miracle – still, just enough of a living human landscape, rooted and connected through local families, to a local past. Our rural areas, are part of the civilisation and future and landscape we imagine for our grandchildren. Somewhere in the welter of statistics, we need to remember that one of the great responsibilities of government is to preserve some of what we cherish. And that includes our small farms, and our living villages. There is no
civilisation in a wilderness for millionaires.

our future in the european union

For every country in the European Union, except perhaps Britain, the Union has been a means of burying history. For some, it promised the end of war on the continent; for the Spanish, the Union gave them the status of a full European democracy; and in January, the Croatian Ambassador to London said that Europe secures their human rights, and guarantees that there will never be a coup.  Even the Swedes, Danes, and Dutch (who share many of Britain’s economic instincts) find deeper purposes and meaning in the European Union, which justify the compromises they have made to stay within it. But Britain seems to be in the European Union only for the money.

British politicians sold the common market to voters in the 1970s only as a free trade area. We were never convinced by French statements about ‘the European civilisation of Shakespeare and Moliere’.  We wanted to know only what was in it for our economy, and what we envisaged by a single market, was quite narrow.  We thought in terms of getting rid of customs and tariff barriers, but not in terms of tax harmonisation, or limits on working hours. And we have since resisted joining some of the most fundamental parts of the Union, leaving us as part of a very small minority. 25 out of 27 countries in the European Union are now committed to things which in Britain seem inconceivable: to open internal borders under Schengen, and to the Euro. We stare across a gulf of cultural difference. (You should have seen one of my colleagues faces, when a Polish minister said ‘the Euro may be a sinking ship but we want to get on it as soon as possible’.)

Many Europeans, feel they are free, democratic, peaceful, and prosperous because of Europe. Many Britons feel that we were free, democratic, peaceful and prosperous, before Europe; and that if we remain so at all, it is in spite of Europe. These contrasts reflect very different historical experiences. It hardly makes sense to ask who is right and who is wrong. The important fact, is that, for a long time, we have had quite different visions. Which is why it can feel as though, having spent a decade trying to join a golf club (with Secretary de Gaulle refusing to let us in), Britain has spent the next forty years complaining that we didn’t like the membership fees, or the other members; and we weren’t even sure whether we wanted to play their style of golf. And as the relationship has deteriorated we have got less from Europe, and put less in (we now have only about a third as many British representatives in the commission as our rivals – in part because we didn’t invest in learning languages, in part because we haven’t pushed). Now there will almost certainly be a referendum. That is right.

For forty years, British politicians have said – often half-heartedly – that Europe is good for us, while seventy per cent of the British people have remained unconvinced. Such a consistent gap between elected politicians and the electorate is wrong. Differences of opinion occur – as when the public supported capital punishment, and MPs abolished it – but when the difference is sustained, almost unchanged, over four decades, on a major issue, it is a national crisis. And the European Union matters – it is central to our sovereignty, and goes to the very heart of the question of what kind of country we want to be – and that is exactly the kind of issue (constitutional reform is another), where the public should be given the final word. So the question is do we stay or do we go? And we are a long way from having a satisfactory answer.

Some of the anti-European arguments do not really acknowledge any of the benefits of membership, or risks of departure, and present us simply as having our goodwill and generosity exploited by our neighbours. In short, they see us as passive victims, rather than the third largest– and perhaps by 2050, the largest – population in the Union, with complex trading links, enormous capital, wealth, reputation and influence. And most of the pro-European arguments are equally disappointing. They suggest that leaving the European Union would destroy our economy, and that the contemporary world is all about large countries like the US, China, or India; that we need to negotiate in huge trading blocks; and that Britain would be too small to survive on its own. It is based on a pessimistic vision (we are too small), and fear (our economy will collapse).  The antis imply that all our problems are someone else’s fault, and that everything would be fine, if only we had our own way. The pros sound like someone saying “I won’t leave a toxic relationship because I am worried that I will lose the house.”

All such positions are and will always be doomed. Because they are negative, reductive, and self-pitying. They suggest two terrible scenarios – that we leave, believing everything will be easy, lose confidence, and eventually beg for readmission; or stay, bitterly, grumbling, and half-hearted, wishing we had gone. Which is why, we need to look hard not at Europe, but at ourselves. And when we vote, take final responsibility for our future, whether inside or outside the EU. Leaving or staying in Europe will carry risks, and challenges. But there is a greater risk, in bad faith. Whichever way we vote, we must not do so on the basis of fantasy or fear, victimhood or pessimism. Instead, we must create a more mature, serious, and confident debate. And we must use the vote to generate a fuller, richer, more positive vision, not only of our relationship to Europe, but also of the kind of country we are, and would like to be.

rory votes for skelton show as best in britain

Rory has cast his vote for Skelton Show in a national competition run by the Farmers Guardian in an attempt to find Britain’s favourite agricultural show.

With an annual attendance of 10,000, Skelton Show is the largest village show in Cumbria, and its exhibitors compete for more than £12,000 in prize money and 130 trophies. As well as cattle, sheep, dogs and a full range of horse and pony classes, the show has over 100 local trade stands, and also hosts Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling.

Skelton show has been successful in reaching the last eight in the national competition, and is the only remaining show in Cumbria to reach the finals. The final stage is now a public vote made on-line via the Farmers Guardian website (see link below) and the competition closes on Friday 22nd March.

In the last 12 years, the show has been cancelled four times (including last year’s) and restricted on another two occasions due to waterlogged grounds and foot-and-mouth disease. These cancellations have had a big impact on the show’s finances, and winning the Farmers Guardian promotion package prize, would significantly help the show to promote and advertise itself this year.

Rory said:

“I am delighted to show my support for Skelton Show. It is without doubt one of the finest shows in the country and it would be fantastic for this to be recognised. Many local agricultural shows have had a really tough time over the past few years, and so for Skelton Show to be crowned best in Britain would help create a real buzz around this Summer’s shows. I am urging everyone to vote before next Friday. It takes literally seconds, and would mean so much to our local rural communities.”

Rory Launches Young Person’s Surgery at Appleby Grammar School Play

Rory launched his young person’s surgery – a drop-in session for constituents under 18 – at Appleby grammar school this weekend, before attending the school production of the Wizard of Oz, and visiting the food fair in aid of the school’s trip to South Africa.

Approximately 100 students and staff were involved in this year’s production; onstage, backstage and front of house, and The Wizard of Oz follows highly successful performances of Bugsy Malone and Appleby Grammar Has the Talent Factor in previous years. Before a packed out audience,the cast delivered a two hour performance, with support from a 14 piece orchestra, that included students from all year groups.

Rory took time beforehand to meet with students at his young person’s surgery where he was able to discuss issues as wide-ranging as funding of the arts to farming, and was interested to learn what students thought of their education and their future prospects beyond secondary school. It also offered an opportunity for the local MP to discuss on-going issues of funding reform and the school’s future with the headteacher, Andrew Lund.

Rory said: “Today’s performance was a real treat, and it was great to see students from across all age groups working together to produce something that was well-choreographed and very entertaining. There were some very talented young thespians and musicians in the show, and it was perhaps not therefore a surprise that the funding of the arts was brought up in my young person’s surgery beforehand. Whilst there are obvious difficulties facing young people in this current climate, it was great to see that so many remain positive about their future. One thing I remain very keen to work closer with schools on however, is getting more students interested in tourism and guiding as a career. Tourism is obviously the most significant component of our local economy, but we are doing little I feel to encourage young Cumbrians to take an interest. It was valuable to get a sense from students therefore that this is something they would be interested in, and I will follow up with local schools to see how this could be developed further. I would like to thank Appleby Grammar School for kindly inviting me to their performance today, and I congratulate everyone involved for their hard work and the delivery of a fantastic performance of the Wizard of Oz.”

rory sets out vision for cumbria as a hub for business and the environment

Rory laid out his vision for Cumbria as a global centre for outdoor, landscape, and energy projects  in a meeting he chaired between local green businesses, social enterprise groups, representatives from Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Rural Enterprise Agency.
Rory has already played a central role in a national pilot project which is looking to make Wigton the first ‘smart-grid market town’ in the UK. The idea is to use technology to lower fuel bills and use electricity more efficiently, by installing smart-grid meters in homes and businesses. At this most recent meeting, Rory sought to use Wigton as a focal point upon which to discuss other green initiatives, such as solar, micro-hydro and even geothermal technologies, to encourage a more holistic strategy to Cumbria’s energy production and consumption. Rory suggested that greater collaboration between all parties could quickly foster the idea that Cumbria could be a hub for energy projects, and sought to identify ways in which this could tie into wider issues of sustainable tourism, business and the Cumbrian landscape.
Speaking afterwards, Rory said:
“It does not require an extraordinary leap of faith to envisage Cumbria as a hub for green business and green investment. It’s no secret that I think wind-turbines are an inappropriate technology here because of their impact on landscape and tourism – our largest income earner. But we can focus on other great environmental alternatives. Manufacturing already comprises 23% of Cumbria’s economy. We are well connected through the M6 corridor and West Coast mainline. And – much in the way Switzerland has successfully done – our stunning landscape and clean air instinctively instils within people the idea that this is a great place for green business.
This afternoon I had the pleasure of taking part in a local electric bike tour, and I feel this acts as a perfect example of how outdoor, landscape, and energy projects can interconnect within Cumbria. Tourism remains the most significant part of our local economy, but I still don’t think we do enough to attract sustainable businesses and energy projects to link in and take advantage of this.
Today is the first of many discussions I hope which will look to focus and sharpen local attention on the green industry, and create more ways in which to incentivise and encourage green and sustainable businesses to invest in Cumbria.”

rory launches local campaign for english tourism week

A week showcasing one of the country’s most important industries has been officially launched in Eden by Rory at Hutton in the Forest, where a fleet of state-of-the-art electric bicycles stole the show.

Organised by Eden District Council’s Tourism Team, the launch of English Tourism Week (16–24 March) saw Rory and specially invited guests try out the very latest in electric bikes in a bid to demonstrate how accessible the area’s tourism attractions are using this eco-friendly form of transport.

The bikes, specially provided by the Penrith Electric Cycle Centre in association with Southampton based electric bike suppliers Life Cycle, were used by the group to go on a special guided tour of some of the many lanes which surround Lord and Lady Inglewood’s historic home. Led by Anna Gray, an expert Blue Badge Guide who specialises in organising electric bike tours around Eden and other parts of Cumbria, the group were shown how easy it is to use the electric bikes and how users can cover significant distance with ease.

Life Cycle’s bikes can travel up to 55 miles on a single charge and this allows people to easily use them on a ½ day or full day excursion to explore all that Eden, Ullswater and the North Pennines has to offer. By using the bikes, that can be hired from the Penrith Electric Cycle Centre – – users can reach a wide range of locations in the District in an easy and exciting way. Guided electric bike tours are also being developed around the Eden Valley as an innovative way in which to showcase the region.

Following the bike ride, Rory officially launched English Tourism Week in Eden on the steps of Hutton in the Forest’s beautiful South Terrace. Rory said:

“I was delighted to be asked by Eden District Council’s Tourism Team to launch local English Tourism Week events at Hutton-in-the-Forest.

“Tourism is now our largest income earner in Penrith and the Border. If we can preserve our beautiful landscape it will become more and more profitable in decades to come. The most exciting growth areas in tourism are outdoor activities, sport and guiding. The electric bikes were fun – and a great component of this. The guide was wonderful. I’d love to work with schools to get more students interested in tourism and guiding as a career. The whole day was typical of the creative Cumbrian approach to our primary asset – the beauty of our countryside.”

Eden District Council’s tourism team invited a range of representatives for the region’s tourism industry to the event as well as senior representatives from Eden District Council. Guests included Jim Walker – Chair of Eden Tourism Network and Chief Executive of Lake District Estates; Simon Bennett – Owner of Augill Castle; Ian Stephens – Chief Executive, Cumbria Tourism; Andy Beanland – Cycle Project Officer, Nurture Eden; Catherine Tyrrell – Marketing Officer, Rheged; Caroline Gunning – Operations Manager at Upper Eden Community Interest Company.

A key aim of the event was to create a greater awareness and understanding amongst key decision makers on how important tourism is for Eden. Rory was given time to talk to guests about issues affecting tourism in Eden and discover some of the ways organisations are striving to develop and enrich Eden’s already high quality tourism offer.

Jim Walker, Chair of the Eden Tourism Network was delighted with how the event has helped raised the profile of tourism within Eden. Jim said: “English Tourism Week is a great opportunity to celebrate and recognise the huge contribution tourism in England makes not just to the economy of the country but also the enjoyment it provides for both residents and international visitors to England.

“I’m delighted to have played a small role in helping to launch Tourism week in Eden, on behalf of all the tourism related  businesses in our area. Our visitors are becoming increasingly sophisticated and demand the highest standards and the Tourism industry in Eden is quick to respond to these needs. I encourage everyone to revisit an attraction, tourism facility or hospitality business during this week to see what has being going on. We’re all guilty of not being aware of the latest developments on our doorstep!”

The launch at Hutton in the Forest heralded the start of a week celebration of tourism that officially begins on 16 March and ends on 24 March. Many other organisations in Eden have embraced English Tourism Week and are staging events. Some examples include a special Daffodil Week at Lowther Castle and Gardens, a travel trade event being hosted by Hutton in the Forest and a concert featuring internationally known flautist Ben MacDougall by Penrith Music Club.

Tourism Week


rory congratulates extraordinary success of disability information day

Local MP Rory Stewart had praised the extraordinary work of local carers and other non-profit organisations that help those with disabilities, after attending the Disability Information Day held in Rheged. Setup and coordinated by Cumbria Learning to Change, the event was the largest free exhibition in Cumbria, North East and the Borders dedicated to those with disabilities and additional needs, and the families and professionals who work with and support them. Rory Stewart spoke with nearly all of the event’s 100 exhibitors who had gathered to showcase and promote the work they do across the county, and had the chance to discuss at length with the event’s coordinator – Kerry-Anne Hunter – what more needs to be done to support these organisations going forward.

Among the service providers and charities taking part in the event included the Children With Disabilities Team, Parent Partnership Service, Cumbria-DeafVision, Barnardo’s, Cumbria Cerebral Palsy, Carlisle and Eden Autism Support, Carlisle & Eden Mencap, Eden Timebank, Aidservice, Creative Support, Bendirgg Trust, Ullswater Commuinty College, Underley Garden and many more.

Speaking at the event, Rory said:

“Disability Information Day has been a really important reminder of the incredible work carried out by countless carers and volunteers, whose care and support not only saves this country millions of pounds every year, but enriches the society in which we live. Cumbria has some truly fantastic care organisations, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to speak with so many of them today, to learn about the work they do, and to share their concerns about the future of care provision. I will continue to offer whatever assistance I can to care organisations in difficulty, and to urge government to do as much as possible for carers in this tough economic climate.

I would like to offer a huge thanks to Kerry-Anne Hunter and her team who have delivered a really first-rate event. The value and importance of today was immediately apparent from speaking to exhibitors, and they should make no mistake in recognising the significance of what they have accomplished.”

Kerry-Anne Hunter, Rory Stewart

Kerry-Anne Hunter, Rory Stewart

rory hails cumbria taking the national lead

Just before midnight, on Thursday the 7th March, the residents of Upper Eden voted 90% in favor of their own neighbourhood plan.  This is the first such referendum in the country, and it’s the largest.  The process, which was driven by Tom Woof, and the community of Upper Eden, caught the imagination of the nation.  Rory has been involved in supporting the plan for over two years, and has brought numerous officials and Minsters up from London, including two visits last month from planning minister Nick Boles.  These visits and this support were in order to ensure that Upper Eden was the first such referendum in the country.  Speaking at midnight at the referendum count, in the Brough Village Hall, Rory said:

“This is the most wonderful news.  Upper Eden should be so proud of what they’ve achieved.  Tom Woof, Alex Birtles, Libby Bateman, Pat Jones and many others in Upper Eden have worked hard to make this a success.  And it’s been great that Eden District Council leader Gordon Nicholson and Councillor Malcolm Smith were able to provide vital support. It was wonderful to see them all there on this very special evening.”

“This is the latest in a string of firsts for Cumbria.  In the last two years we’ve been the first Big Society pilot, the first national broadband pilot and we’ve built a unique affordable housing scheme in Crosby Ravensworth.  But this is the most ambitious project to date.  By giving planning power to local parishes, it delivers something fundamental; the ability to shape your home environment.  It is the key to affordable housing, to the next generation of farming, to small businesses, and to preserving the beauty of an area we all love.  I couldn’t be more happy.”

Rory has asked any other parishes that are interested in developing their own neighborhood plan to get in touch with his office.

UECP count

rory helps raise funds for hospice at home

Hospice at Home Carlisle and North Lakeland close their special Fifteenth Anniversary Year by organising a wonderful evening at The Playhouse in Penrith.  Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and the Border presents ‘Borderlands’.  This special topic is about the Border country: it’s past history and present identity, based on Rory’s walk through Cumbria and along the Scottish Border last summer. This is to take place on Friday 22nd March 7pm for 7.30pm.

Rory said “I am delighted to be invited to speak at the Hospice at Home 15th Anniversary fundraising evening. The organisation does incredible work within my constituency and across Cumbria, providing much needed care, support and friendship to so many. Elderly people constitute an ever-increasing proportion of my constituents, and this only means that the work of Hospice at Home will become yet more vital still.

Given our proximity to the border and current political uncertainty about its future, my talk on the Borderlands I hope will spark some interesting dialogue and debate on the night. For centuries Cumbrians found themselves in a middle land between Scotland and England. Cumbrian identity is inherently shaped therefore by the border to our North.”

The evening will consist of wine or soft drinks on reception and Cumbrian Savouries in the interval. A raffle and bar will also be available. Tickets are £15.00 each and are available from the Fundraising Office 01768 210719, on line by visiting  and at the Hospice at Home Shop in Little Dockray in Penrith. The Charity would like to thank Pallister Co. for sponsoring this event and Rory Stewart for his continuous commitment. Please support this wonderful evening to hear the notorious speaker Rory Stewart and help the Charity celebrate one of the last events of the Fifteenth Anniversary. The Hospice at Home nursing service covers 1500 square miles from the Scottish Border to Stainmore and Allonby to Alston.  The clinical team care and nurse approximately 300 patients each year also supporting their families and carers.

The charity is vital and needs to raise £11,750 each week to continue to provide this service.

Anyone interested in raising funds or volunteering please contact the Hospice at Home office 01768 210719. Press contact: Cath Wheeler on 01768 210 719

looking back on iraq

It is the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and nine and a half years since I first boarded a troop plane to Basra. I still find the scale of our failure astonishing. It was a war in which 179 British and 4488 American soldiers were killed, and over 40,000 wounded. A trillion pounds was spent by the coalition. And many many Iraqis died. What was the result? Most of us have no precise idea. Some switched off at the time of the invasion, enraged by “Blair and Bush”. Others still talk about the ‘success of the surge’ and feel that General Petraeus’ counter-insurgency strategy, and 170,000 troops, created success. But in part because British newspaper editors don’t write long analyses of Iraq, we – I – don’t really know.

My experience on the ground in Southern Iraq in 2003, 2004, and 2005, was of chaos. Not even Iraqis knew exactly who controlled the provinces. Iranian militia fought nationalist militia; engineers, and professionals were pushed from their jobs, and often their homes. Women, who once walked with heads uncovered, were now frightened by Islamists into wearing full black abayas. The clinics, schools, and meeting-halls I helped to build, were looted, and abandoned. We – the coalition – knew pathetically little about the detail of Iraqi power, culture, and politics: inevitably, we picked the wrong allies, and made the wrong enemies. By 2006, 30 new mutilated bodies could be found every morning on suburban pavements in Baghdad. Many of the people who worked with me, and who had become my friends – from a female doctor, to a young Iraqi scholar – were dragged from their cars and killed.

When I returned to Baghdad, after the surge in 2008, violence had been reduced. It was again possible – with caution – to walk some of the streets. Perhaps eighty people were being killed a month, instead of eight hundred. And it seemed as though the US could have a workable relationship with an Iraqi government. Vice-President Biden said in 2009 that he would ‘bet his Vice-Presidency’ that 10,000 US troops would remain in the country for years to come – focused on training, and counter-terrorism. But over the last eighteen months, this relationship has unraveled First, contrary to the Vice-President’s predictions, the Iraqis have insisted that every last US soldier depart. They have refused visas to so many US diplomats that half the new multi-billion dollar Embassy is empty. As the last US troops withdrew, they were attacked by a Shia terrorist group; two months later that group was brought into the Iraqi government. The day that the last soldier left, the Shia Prime-Minister sent tanks to arrest the Sunni Vice-President. President Obama personally called the Kurdish leader – who had been one of the US’s closest allies – asking him to step aside and allow in a more balanced government. The Kurdish leader refused. Three months ago, Vice-President Biden begged the Iraqi Prime-Minister not to release an Iranian terrorist commander, (who had been arrested by British troops. The Iraqi Prime-Minister ignored the Vice-President, and released him. In August and September, Iraqi banks were teaming up with the Iranian government to break sanctions. Iranians were being allowed to ship weapons through Iraq to prop up the Syrian regime. And in December, the Iraqi Prime-Minister, who arrested 615 Sunni Arabs in an hour, a year ago, lined up his troops against the Kurdish militia. On one day last year, there were simultaneous attacks in ten cities, killing fifty and wounding two hundred.

Saddam – an extreme dictator – has gone. The media is much freer now. Many young Iraqis, and particular Kurds, are very grateful that the old regime has fallen, and are proud of their new culture. But the international community has not achieved its objectives – however often it redefines them. First, we aimed to create a ‘democratic Iraq, at peace with itself and its neighbours’. By 2009, we talked only of a stable, representative government, a place where terrorists could not operate, and “an ally”. Instead, after a decade, a trillion pounds, and more lives than anyone would want to count, we have helped to create a place, which sometimes looks like a corrupt and fragile democracy, and sometimes like a Shia rogue state – somewhere on a scale between Iran and Pakistan.

The question for Britain is what aspect of our culture, our government, and our national psychology, allowed us to get mired in such catastrophe? Everyone – including Cumbrians – should try to understand what happened. We need to reform the army, the Foreign Office, our intelligence agency, and the way parliament debates war, to make us more knowledgeable, more prudent, and more willing to speak truth to power. We must expose not only the politicians but also the generals and civil servants who failed to challenge the system, emphasise the disaster, or press hard enough for withdrawal. We must recognise how easily we exaggerate our fears (‘terrorism’ and ‘weapons of mass destruction’) and how easily we hypnotise ourselves with theories (‘state-building’ and ‘counter-insurgency’). We must acknowledge the limits of our knowledge, power, and legitimacy. This was the biggest British overseas engagement since the Korean War, and our greatest catastrophe since the Boer War. (Suez was at least much shorter). It began only ten years ago. Parliament voted overwhelmingly for the war. 100,000 British soldiers and civilians served at some point in Iraq. Perhaps 200,000 Iraqis have been killed. And yet, society as a whole seems to be trying to forget it ever happened.