On Changing Britain

raftTeacher: “What does your father do, little Billy?” “He plays the piano in an opium den”. Teacher calls home. Father: “I lied: but how can you tell an eight year old boy that his father is a politician?”

In polls, more than eighty per cent of the public feel ‘politics is broken’. When strangers discover I’m a politician they often look at me as though they are unsure whether I am a snake or a monkey. And all the questions they ask – put as politely as they can – imply they are astonished by our ignorance, our shoddiness, and our incompetence. Which leaves democracy in a strange position. Our democracy has been developing for four hundred years, the British people have never been so educated or confident, but the gap between public and politicians has never felt larger: citizens are deeply disappointed in their politicians. The same is true in almost every ‘democratic’ country.

Show more
On the road

On Restoring National Confidence

The Financial Times yesterday suggested that the recent success of Asian economies could be the result of a young population, and as average age rose, growth would fall. Behind this, and a hundred similar theories, is the belief that a nation’s future is determined by statistics. We peer at the world through a cage of bar-charts – on productivity, literacy, […]

westminster-palace-01

on constitutional reform

Britain has faced over the last twenty years a blizzard of constitutional change.  In most countries it would count as a revolution. It is driven by a theory called ‘the separation of powers’. This is an old obsession of political theorists, derived from a French philosopher’s misunderstanding of the British system in 1748. It has […]

22-10-2013 10-47-53

on judicial sentencing

What is the point of a parliamentary debate? It isn’t about changing MPs’ minds or their votes. It wasn’t, even in the mid-nineteenth century. In the 1860s Trollope describes how MPs almost always voted on party lines. But they and he still felt that parliamentary debate mattered, because it set the terms of the public […]

eu

referendum on the eu

Last Monday was the first revolt I have seen in Parliament. It broke almost without warning. Things had seemed calm until then: three and a half years to the election, the conference tranquil, the Prime Minister popular, Gaddafi dead, the Foreign Secretary on his way to the  Commonwealth meeting in Australia. Then the back-bench business […]

HousesofParliament

constitutional reform

Good policies start from what is here, now; from what people are demanding; and from what we can do. Bad policies start from what ought to be present, what people ought to want, and what we ought to achieve. Thus a good decision, on how many sheep to keep on a fell, draws on an […]

rory_scoutsjune2013

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 […]

Penrith Castle

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 […]

rory_penrithstation1

‘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 […]

thoughts on the big society

I thought I’d share a couple of points I’ve been trying to make in correspondence with a constituent about the Big Society: thoughts welcome… Big Society projects are by their very nature local and varied. For that reason, they can only be fully assessed on the ground and in a particular place. A successful big […]

methode-sundaytimes-prod-web-bin-04b67e6a-8cab-11e6-8a5c-a2c1ff741a67

HOW CUMBRIA’S VILLAGE HALLS ARE PIONEERING A HI-TECH REVOLUTION

Article first published in The Guardian on 2 January 2011. This winter, 130 activists gathered to discuss superfast broadband in a village hall in Cumbria. They had come from 100 villages, by 100 paths. Ali had presumably travelled north along the shore of Ullswater, rounded Loadpot Hill and turned south down the Lowther valley, until […]