Rory Stewart is to step down as Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border after nine and a half years.
Writing in his latest column for The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, Mr Stewart said: “Being your Member of Parliament has been the privilege of my life. So much of what I love about Britain lies in Cumbria: our landscape, our farming communities, our deep history and the character of our people. I feel it every time I look out of the window at home in Butterwick. And I have felt it again and again since I first walked right around this constituency as a candidate. When I have thought of England, in my most difficult moments in Afghanistan or Iraq, I have thought of this place.
“And I have been so proud to be allowed to support and work with you. What I will remember most, is not the big things that I helped with – installing the first superfast broadband through the constituency, responding to the terrible flooding, securing the money to dual the A66. Nor is it even the smaller campaigns – saving the Penrith cinema and fire station or the Alston community ambulance, or even Alston’s cobbles. What I will remember most is simply being with people, listening, learning and focusing on individual problems – helping people face and sometimes overcome the many smaller absurdities and injustices inflicted by government: late farm payments, pension issues, planning and parking. I have such happy memories of visits to hundreds of local charities and schools. But above all, I will remember that I probably achieved most by giving communities some initial support to solve their own problems –– from the community broadband schemes in Mallerstang and Dufton, through the community housing in Crosby Ravensworth, or indeed Crosby’s community pub. (If I have one regret it is that I was not something more like a mayor – responsible full-time for running things on the ground in Cumbria – rather than being sent off as a Member of Parliament and then a Minister to a talking-shop in Westminster!)
“It is, therefore, with great sadness that I am now handing the baton on. As you will be aware, I am no longer allowed to run as Conservative MP in Penrith and The Border. Because I have loved the constituency so much, I had considered standing as an Independent; but I have decided that I wouldn’t want to run against those Conservative members who have been such wonderful colleagues over the last ten years. I am hugely grateful to all the members of my local party who have written in support, and to the Chair and President of my local party, who have resigned from the Conservative Party in support of my position. But it should be no secret that there are also local party members who would rather I did not run again. I don’t want to test loyalties, destroy old friendships or push any of these issues any further. There is enough toxic division in British politics without importing it into Cumbria! Instead, I want to end as I began with happy and positive memories of the work we have done together.
“As for the future – I am a public servant to my core and will stay involved in politics, endeavouring to make my voice heard. I will, of course, continue to explain why I voted for a Brexit deal, while rejecting a No-Deal Brexit (especially because of the damage it would inflict on Cumbria and sectors such as farming). But ultimately I want to move beyond Brexit, and focus on getting things done on the ground. I think our great parties are now in danger of coming apart, and our great parliament is becoming increasingly diminished. I want to show how much difference can still be made outside parliament. So I hope to start work in another part of the country. I would like, if you will allow me, to remain closely involved with Cumbria – as a champion, supporting local charities and communities – not as your Member of Parliament, but I hope as your friend.”