Article first published in The Times on 16 April 2010.

Not all politicians are the same after all. Scholar, soldier, diplomat and author, Rory Stewart could not be farther from the typical party apparatchik. As we continue to identify candidates who merit support, regardless of their party, Mr Stewart has surely earned our endorsement.

It would be easy to think that men such as Mr Stewart no longer exist. Still only 37 years old, he has been the governor of a province in Iraq, walked across Afghanistan (which resulted in a bestselling book), and most recently was a professor of human rights at Harvard University.

But Mr Stewart has swapped the cloistered world of Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the wilds of Penrith, where he is standing for a safe Conservative seat. Unideological, socially engaged and jargon-free, Mr Stewart perfectly embodies David Cameron’s plans for a “Big Society”.

Mr Stewart’s most admirable quality has been to seek preferment from the Conservative Party while publicly disagreeing with its leader’s position on Afghanistan. This paper does not altogether share Mr Stewart’s scepticism. But Westminster needs more politicians who know the facts on the ground, and know their own minds. Mr Stewart is one of those.

There are broader reasons to feel optimisitic. Our age of ultra-professionalism, sadly, makes a virture of narrowness. A hinterland is regarded as dangerously close to dilettantism. No wonder many MPs know little about life outside the political classes. Mr Stewart, in contrast, has already touched a remarkable range of constituencies — from war zones to academia. It is to be hoped that he will soon add another, the constituency of Penrith & The Border.

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