Monthly Archives: April 2015


The Alston Moor community last night held the first general election hustings for the Penrith and The Border seat, with all five parliamentary candidates in attendance. Over 100 local residents of all ages packed out the Alston Town Hall to hear from; Rory Stewart (Conservatives), Neil Hughes (Liberal Democrats), Lee Rushworth (Labour), John Stanyer (UKIP) and Bryan Burrow (Green). Most questions focused on the commitments each candidate would make on rural issues, such as the funding deal for rural councils and public transport provision. But candidates also fielded questions on the electoral voting system and commitments to renewable energy and tackling climate change.

Speaking afterwards, Rory Stewart said:

“It comes as no surprise that a community as passionate and dynamic as Alston, has been the first to organise a general hustings with all five parliamentary candidates. It was also a fantastic turn-out with nearly a hundred people attending. Alston is a symbol of community action – be it the community snow plough, the community ambulance, or the community’s successful efforts to save Alston hospital. I hope – whoever wins – Alston is able to continue to take more power at a local level. I have been immensely proud to stand alongside Alston community over the past five years as the local MP, fighting for those issues that matter most to the local community. If I am lucky enough to again earn their vote, I hope we can go even further to ensure Alston remains somewhere both wonderful and distinctive.”


Representatives from the five political parties fielding parliamentary candidates in Penrith and The Border, yesterday attended a hustings set up by The Cumbria Third Sector Network, that focused specifically on the local voluntary sector. According to Karen Bowen, the Chief Officer of the Cumbria Council for Voluntary Service, who provided an overview of the voluntary work in Cumbria at the start of the debate, Cumbria has over 6000 voluntary organisations, drawing on the skills of over 50,000 local volunteers, who collectively give over 3.5m hours of voluntary work in Cumbria each year. Candidates were asked how the respective parties would better support volunteering, encourage more user involvement in the planning of public services and ensure that national policies take account of the needs of rural areas such as Cumbria.

Speaking on the platform was: Rory Stewart, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Penrith and The Border; Chris Loynes, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Westmorland and Lonsdale; Roger Liddle, Labour peer and county councillor for Wigton; Neil Hughes, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Penrith and The Border; and John Stanyer, UKIP Parliamentary Candidate for Penrith and The Border.

Speaking afterwards, Rory Stewart said:

“The voluntary sector is key to what we do here in Cumbria. Whether it is affordable housing, neighbourhood plans, mountain rescue, or palliative care at home, we are dependent upon the incredible generosity, energy and passion of thousands of volunteers. We need to ensure these organisations have the right support from Government, that we have in place a system that makes the act of volunteering easier, more enjoyable, and less bureaucratic, and that the genius and expertise of small, local charities is not lost as they struggle to compete against larger, more well-funded national charities. Cumbria has led the way nationally over the past five years when it comes to community and voluntary action. We have set up some incredible local projects that are having a real impact on local people’s lives, and I hope if I am fortunate enough to again earn the vote of local people in two week’s time, we can go on to do even more.”


Rory Stewart, Parliamentary candidate for Penrith and The Border, was invited to present Bewcastle Primary School’s poetry prizes, awarded to winning students from each year group. The author of three best-selling books – and currently working on his fourth, focused on his walk across Cumbria – Rory Stewart had the opportunity to read the students’ poems, and talk to them on their own sources of inspiration. Bewcastle Headteacher, Georgina Harland, thanked Rory Stewart for taking time out of his re-election campaign, to meet with the students.

Rory Stewart said:

“In an area as beautiful as Bewcastle, it is easy to be inspired, and it came as no surprise to read such interesting and well-constructed poems. Cumbria has produced some of our greatest and most beloved poets and writers, and I would like to see more local schools encouraging young people to engage with poetry, and reflect upon locally-inspired poems and novels.”

Rory Stewart alongside poetry winners

Rory Stewart alongside poetry winners


Parliamentary candidate for Penrith and The Border, Rory Stewart, yesterday delivered a talk to the Bewcastle Heritage Society on the history of the Borderlands. The talk drew over 80 people from both sides of the border, and built on the two-part BBC documentary he hosted last year called, Border Country – The Story Of Britain’s Lost Middleland. In the Summer of 2012, Rory Stewart walked from his home in the Lowther Valley across much of Cumbria, before heading up to his family home in Scotland. The photos and experiences from this walk formed the backdrop for much of his talk to the Bewcastle Heritage Society, looking at Hadrian’s Wall, the Bewcastle Cross, and the history of the Border reivers, and local farming families.

Rory Stewart said:

“As a Scot, living in England, I have always felt my identity spans across both sides of the border, and I consequently have a keen interest in the history of this region. I would argue that the construction of Hadrian’s Wall almost two thousand years ago, was possibly the single most important event in Britain’s history, and the cultural and political ramifications of the wall are still being felt today. It was great to engage in some really interesting debate with the Bewcastle Heritage Society, with people who interact with the border on a daily basis, and who perhaps have a greater appreciation than most of the impact it continues to play in our lives.”


Rory Stewart, the parliamentary candidate for Penrith and The Border, was invited to speak at a fundraising dinner last Thursday, in support of the Castlerigg Manor Youth Service. Castlerigg Manor serves communities across the North West, acting as a residential retreat where young people can engage in outdoor activities and adventure weekends to develop their self-esteem and confidence. As the Youth Service for the Lancaster Dioceses, Castlerigg Manor has been active in the Northwest for over 40 years, and is keen to continue expanding their work and profile. Rory Stewart delivered a talk on his 42 day walk across Afghanistan, from Herat to Kabul, before opening up to the audience to talk on the country’s uncertain future.

Speaking afterwards, Rory Stewart said:

“Castlerigg Manor has done some incredible work with young people in the region for over 40 years. I was only too happy to support their fundraiser, and I hope they can continue to build and expand upon their work, inspiring and supporting young people for many more years to come.”


The Penrith and The Border Parliamentary candidate, Rory Stewart, was invited on Friday, to speak with students at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School on his experiences walking across Afghanistan in 2002 – which he would later write up into a New York Times Bestselling book, The Places in Between. Rory introduced the history, culture, and religion of Afghanistan, and touched on topics such as the position of women, marriage, and the experience of decades of war, before going on to talk about the charity he set up in Kabul in 2005 called The Turquoise Mountain Foundation. The question and answer session was a lively interaction between Rory Stewart and students with questions going in each direction.

Speaking afterwards, Rory Stewart said:

“It was great to engage with students from QEGS, and to talk with them about Afghan culture, and my walk. This remains a part of the world which is very important at the moment, but which we often know too little about. These are societies which are about as far removed from our own as we can often imagine. But they raise very important thoughts about life, war, religion and family. I’d love to do more such talks – it’s very exciting to be able to introduce such testing subjects to students – and I learned a lot through the questions and answers. I hope I have the opportunity to do more such events with young Cumbrians in the future.”


Rory Stewart, Parliamentary candidate for Penrith and The Border, met with the headteacher and head of Sixth Form at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School on Friday to hear concerns about funding for rural schools. The QEGS senior management team explained the difficulties and challenges they are facing, and Rory Stewart promised to work with them, and other secondary schools in the local area, to ensure they have the opportunity to meet with senior officials from the Department for Education, and talk through their concerns.

In his first term as MP for the constituency, Rory Stewart lobbied strongly for greater funding support for rural schools, and successfully ensured a sparsity factor was included in the school funding formula, to better support rural Cumbrian communities in particular. Having placed rural services at the heart of his re-election campaign, including trying to find a solution to school transport for 16 – 19 year olds that does not see families having to pay a fee over £350 per year, Rory Stewart has said he hopes he can ‘continue to work alongside Cumbrian schools and communities, to ensure young people can continue to receive an outstanding education in some of the best schools in the country.’

Speaking after his meeting at QEGS, Rory Stewart said:

“QEGS is a truly wonderful school, attracting students from literally all over the world. Teachers and students have every right to be proud of the results QEGS consistently achieves, and we need to ensure we have the resources in place to continue investing in such excellence in the long term. I am keen to work alongside QEGS, and other local schools, to setup a meeting with senior Department of Education officials, to highlight to Government where local Cumbrian schools are struggling, and to ensure we address any local funding concerns.”


Rory Stewart, Parliamentary candidate for Penrith and The Border, took time out of his campaign last Friday, to meet with local British Medical Association members at the Roundthorn Hotel in Penrith, where he delivered a talk on the rise and threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. A former deputy governor in Iraq during the 2003 Iraq war, as well as a former professor of International Human Rights at Harvard University, Rory Stewart is considered a leading expert in conflict throughout the Middle East, and served on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and as Chair of the Defence Select Committee, during his first term in parliament. Rory Stewart has been a key proponent of a far more cautious approach to military intervention, that recognises the limits of our own capabilities. He has called for stronger reinvestment into the UK’s diplomatic services, to ensure local diplomats have the necessary historical and culture awareness, as well as the necessary language skills, to properly advise and shape British foreign policy.

Speaking at the BMA event, Rory Stewart said:

“Our failure to predict or anticipate the rise of the so called Islamic State, highlights a chronic under-investment in the Foreign Office and MoD going back decades, that has seen us lose much of the specialist country knowledge and on-the-ground expertise we were previously renowned for. People are rightly questioning what our involvement is doing to help local people in Iraq fight IS, and whilst our military support has helped to contain this terrorist organisation and prevent them spreading further, what is desperately needed is a political solution, led by Iraqis themselves. This must be where we invest our time, energy and support. Air strikes and military support on their own will not be sufficient to defeat them.”

General Election Hustings in Penrith – Saturday 25th

Just to let you know of the General Election Hustings that will be taking place this coming Saturday (25th April), 5:00 – 6:30, at the United Reformed Church on Lowther Street, Penrith.

All 5 candidates for the Penrith and The Border Constituency will be present, and I hope it will serve as a good opportunity, for those of you still undecided on which way to vote, to get a better sense of what each of us is standing for – our vision for Cumbria, and the UK more widely – and to ask questions on policy issues that matter most to you.

The event is aimed at all ages and everyone is welcome. If you would like a particular question to be asked, please contact Nick Mark: [email protected]

It would be great to see as many of you there as possible. If there are any questions you would like to ask me directly in advance however, or if you are keen to offer help and support to our campaign in the final few weeks that remain, please do not hesitate to get in touch on [email protected]


As one of the most prominent pro-union campaigners during last year’s referendum on Scottish independence, Rory Stewart this week revisited the ‘Auld Acquaintance’ cairn at Gretna, as he continued on his tour of The Penrith and The Border constituency, for which he is seeking re-election. Erected in the months preceding the Scottish referendum last year as a symbol of unity and support for Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom, the project launched by Rory Stewart, saw tens of thousands of people travel to Gretna from across the United Kingdom – and further afield – to lay approximately 130,000 stones in support of the Union. Thousands of painted messages, poems and names, reflecting love for Scotland and the United Kingdom, were still proudly visible.

Speaking at the cairn, alongside Alasdair Houston, who kindly offered the land on which it was built, Rory Stewart said:

“It is wonderful to again reflect on the energy and passion with which thousands of people from both sides of the border came to express their support for Scotland as part of the United Kingdom. I look back with real fondness and pride over what we managed to achieve here, and I hope the cairn will continue to stand as a symbol of our common identity, shared culture, and values for many years to come. Scotland is better off in the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom is better off with Scotland in it. The Scottish people voted decisively to remain part of the UK, and I hope, whatever happens in the forthcoming election, that the will of the Scottish people for our on-going union is respected.”