The levels of violence and drug use in some of our prisons is shockingly high. Violent prisons are dangerous for our hard-working, dedicated prison officers, and they are a danger for our whole society. Therefore, my first priority, as prisons’ minister, is to make our prisons safe. How? First, by recruiting extra prison officers – […]


Cumbria’s excellent Museum of Military Life at Carlisle Castle has a new Exhibition, ‘Lest We Forget’. I went expecting to focus on the victims of war, I left reflecting on how we fail to remember them. The First World War is less visible in Cumbria than in other parts of Britain. While the centre of […]



Rewilding seems to be fast becoming as much a fashion amongst landowners as Capability Brown parks were in the eighteenth century. It is spreading from Yellowstone National Park to the Cumberland plain. In Scotland Anders Povlsen, the richest man in Denmark, is turning 220,000 acres of land  – about a third the size of Penrith and […]


For many decades, Cumbrian planners have tried to create economic growth by backing large Cumbrian industries. This is understandable because our industrial revolution was a miracle. The slow growth of our traditional rural economy, celebrated by Wordsworth, was blown apart in the second half of the nineteenth century, as we tore into the land, extracting […]

The Public Point of View

My father died just over a year ago. I dreamt about him last night. Thinking about him, I’m reminded of two things today: first, that he loved me; and second, that he was – to put it mildly – puzzled by my choice of profession. He never saw the point of parliament, which he thought […]

What kind of place do we want Cumbria to be?

What kind of place do we want Cumbria to be in twenty years’ time? Or in two hundred years’ time? Our lives are still shaped by political decisions made centuries ago. We travel on railway lines, and drink from reservoirs, first laid by the Victorians. We look at scenery created by neolithic farmers and nineteenth […]

The Genius of Local Industry

“I have no idea,’ said my father, ‘how Britain survives – when we don’t make anything anymore.” Producing food and manufacturing goods is relatively easy to understand. You can watch a farmer take a fellside, drain, lime, plough and plant, and create food from wasteland. You could watch him design a new plough, which could […]

The Lasting Institutions of our Society

Last Saturday, Shoshana and I spent the day at the Cumberland show. It has passed its 175th anniversary and you could see why it has lasted so long. It wasn’t only the ice-cream. We must have met two hundred people who had come from across two thousand square miles of Cumbria. Shoshana stood, transfixed by […]

Our culture excludes the old when they have so much to contribute

First published in The Observer on 9 November 2013. Parliament talks ceaselessly of “the next generation”. But, in Cumbria, where I’m an MP, voluntary activity and politics are generally driven by people over the age of 55. Every village seems to have a retired engineer attempting to build a community fibre-optic cable network and baffling the most […]