VietnamHas Britain given up on foreign affairs? Many say ‘We don’t have an Empire anymore’; or that ‘We are not a rich country.’ That has been said since Indian independence in 1947, or perhaps since our economic fragility was laid bare at the end of the First World War. Some ask ‘What right have we got to tell others how to live their lives?’ That question has been gathered momentum since the 1960s. Some ask ‘What business is it of mine?’ That attitude has been going on since the Old Testament.

Meanwhile, the balance of power is shifting to the people, quickly. Parliament blocked government action on Syria. There was the referendum over our membership of the European Union. There is disquiet over our aid programmes. Many fear it is a sign that populism or domestic priorities are undermining Britain’s place in the world. They worry too that people don’t know about the complexities of foreign affairs and don’t care. About this last point, at least, I think they are wrong.

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South Sudan – a case study in International Intervention

Zach Vertin: A rope from the Sky: the Making and Unmaking of the World’s newest state, 2019 Peter Martell: First Raise a Flag, 2018 The Government of South Sudan: South Sudan Development Plan, 2011-2013 “Realising freedom, equality, justice, peace and prosperity for all”, 2011     South Sudan is a real place which includes grasslands […]

Politics: A Dozen Small Things

Article first published in the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald on 1 December 2017 When I lived outside Britain, I felt that the greatest problem in Britain was injustice. Once I became a ‘parliamentary candidate’ I began to feel that the problem was that government was completely out of touch with reality on the ground, and […]

Optimism in Politics – Herald Column Saturday 8th July 2017

The United Kingdom has never been so well-educated. The number of people going to university in Britain has exploded from three per cent in the 1950s to almost fifty per cent today. Our citizens have never been so well-informed about our politicians and their policies. And lobby groups have never been so relentlessly practical – […]

The Politics of Development

In many of the poorest countries of the world more than eighty per cent of the population still live in rural areas. Their incomes – and indirectly their health, their educational prospects, and their future – depend on farming. Which is why tens of thousands of highly skilled experts – backed by programmes from all […]

International Affairs in a Post-Brexit World

In the four days since I was made the Minister for International Development, I must have been asked a dozen times whether International Affairs isn’t simply a waste of time. It’s not a bad question. It’s right to be suspicious of governments who exaggerate their international importance; and there are too many recent examples of […]


Penrith and The Border MP and DEFRA Minister Rory Stewart has set out an optimistic vision for the future of environmental legislation outside of the EU, in a debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons on the implications of the EU Referendum result on energy and environmental legislation. The Minister for Rural […]

Statement on Brexit

Britain must now make the best of Brexit. The decision is made, and we should be energetic and optimistic. ‎We need to remind people that this is still the same Britain, that the things about Britain that we fundamentally enjoy, remain the same. I personally believe that we need to invest now more than ever […]


My decision on the Syria vote was strongly influenced by my personal experiences and work in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Balkans showed me how important an international intervention can be in protecting civilians. Iraq and Afghanistan showed how much uncertainty and ignorance and risk we face in intervention. There are risks […]