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.

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Gaudium

ON THE ROLE OF AN MP

On Friday morning I discussed the role of an MP with a roomful of eleven and twelve year olds. A girl from Patterdale suggested I was there to improve rural services. A boy from Skelton focused on the cost of fuel. They explained the difficulty of making a profit in a village shop. And they […]

Community Action

the big society and local democracy

The Prime Minister has now said repeatedly that Big Society is his passion and that he wants it to be his most lasting positive legacy. Where a Prime-minster leads, an industry emerges: think-tanks ponder it; civil servants wish to legislate on it, columnists debate it, new Ministers are created to propagate it.  But what is […]

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the ‘big society’ announcement

On Monday, I went with Gordon Nicolson and others to hear the Prime Minister announce the Eden Valley as a pilot for the ‘Big Society’.  On Tuesday, I read that a resident of Crosby Ravensworth did not know what this meant.  He or she is not alone. It is very confusing. We are accustomed to projects meaning […]

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big society? It’s all about liberating the locals

Yesterday, the Prime-Minister highlighted the Eden communities in my constituency as exemplars of the Big Society. The concept – like much in modern politics – is a coalition within a coalition. But whatever Big Society means, there are some valuable things going on in communities in Cumbria.  Last winter, I spent the first night of […]

rory_NTSkidstrees

the different roles of an MP

I saw three versions of an MP’s life this week. Last Sunday evening, I drew the broadband Minister into discussing better broadband access for Cumbria. I really want to make this happen. We have more self-employed people in Penrith and the Border than any other constituency and we will jeopardise all rural services from village […]

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NEW MP DIARIES – THE FIRST THREE WEEKS

Article first published in BBC News on 1 June 2010.   WEEK ONE: Last night was the most dramatic event I think I’ve ever witnessed. It was in the 1922 committee room, incredible, as you can imagine, panelled oaked room with pictures of Gladstone at the back and so many Conservative MPs gathered in that […]

P&B

the battle for the local in cumbria

Our fight to preserve Cumbrian schools, hospitals, community facilities, and local services has led us into a battle, which is not just local but national.  All across Britain, the hearts of rural villages and towns are collapsing and their culture of the local and personal is replaced by distant and inflexible centralized services. The latest […]

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NO SUBSTANCE, NO SUCCESS

Article first published in The New York Times on 12 March 2007. The accepted wisdom in British political circles is that Tony Blair won three elections by giving the British voters charisma and energy unfettered by dull or controversial policies. The Tories have now taken the lesson to heart. They are fighting back with feel-good, idea-light […]

House of Lords

Make the Lords Stand for Election? First, Let’s Sit and Think

First published in The New York Times, March 17 2007. When I visited Baghdad in 2003 and 2004, I found senior people in the Coalition Provisional Authority largely uninterested in events in the province where I was based. They focused on writing a draft constitution for Iraq. Paul Bremer III was excited about the document […]