parliament speaks

I have been in parliament for over a year but I am only just beginning to understand how it works. It speaks: all the time. It is a last fragment of preliterate England: a place where what matters is not what is written, still less what is e-mailed, but what is spoken. Speaking is the […]

royal wedding

The centre of London on the day of the wedding was cut by police barriers; the underground stations were closed; it felt hot; and there was someone on every paving-stone between Millbank and Leicester Square. It took me an hour and a half to find a route though the crowd back to my aunt’s flat, and I just had […]

easter ramblings

It is just before six in the morning. I have finally unearthed (at the bottom of a cupboard) my  trousers for the Royal Wedding and I am in my aunt’s kitchen in London preparing for Parliament: the wood-pigeon outside has the gravelly voice of a cockney gangster. Most MPs seem to have spent Easter ‘pounding […]

on history

In Wigton last Tuesday I learnt that it is about to celebrate its 750th anniversary as a market town. I am really looking forward to it but I have to confess I find Wigton in 1262 a place foreign in almost every conceivable way. In 1262 most of the people spoke a dialect heavily influenced […]


easter newsletter

Dear All, First – thank you to everyone who supported the campaign to save the Penrith cinema. This Thursday, the owners, Graves, telephoned me to say that they have agreed to keep it open for another ten years. It is a most generous gesture by Graves. But it is also a real triumph for all […]

open letter to the cumberland and westmorland herald

Dear Sir, This is now our last chance to protect Newton Rigg. Hundreds of Cumbrians – and well-wishers from further afield – have signed our petition to ‘Keep Newton Rigg Cumbrian’, and continue to email me daily with their messages of support. We now need one last push. As you know, this is something which we have been fighting […]

impact of the budget on penrith and the border

  This is a fantastic budget for Penrith and the Border. Our economy depends on four things: small and medium sized businesses (which prop up our incredible tourism industry), fuel prices (because of our long distances), infrastructure (such as broadband) and agriculture. We’ve made huge progress on broadband and, following the visit of the Defra Ministers last […]

Here we go again – the libyan intervention

Published by The London Review of Books, 18th March 2011 Until yesterday, I thought we were at the end of the age of intervention. The complacency that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union had been shattered by the Balkan wars; despair was followed by the successful interventions in Bosnia and then Kosovo; then triumphal […]

‘events, dear boy, events’

Last Monday demonstrated Macmillan’s theory that politics is all about ‘Events, dear boy, events.’ My priorities were to finally get the senior agriculture Ministers to travel up to Cumbria to focus on the uplands and to press the Chancellor to reduce fuel duty. I felt I was making progress. The day’s parliamentary debates were on […]

Nine non-violent options for action in libya

Nine non-violent options for international action in Libya by my friend Carne Ross:   1.  Establishment of an escrow account for Libyan oil revenues: this would require further UNSC chapter VII authorisation.  At present, it appears that all oil revenues, including from oil produced from rebel-held areas, flows to the Libyan government.  All payments should […]