The 'Big Society': Rory Stewart should try harder

By Jill Segger
July 30, 2010

The parliamentary constituency of Penrith and the Border is both the largest and the most sparsely populated in England. Its main towns, apart from Penrith, are Wigton and Brampton and the beautiful Eden valley which lies at its heart has been selected as one of the four 'Big Society vanguard communities' which David Cameron describes as “the training grounds of this change”

Earlier this week, (25 July) its newly elected Conservative MP, Rory Stewart blundered into the public view with an astonishingly stupid remark which exposed the vapidity and hypocrisy of that concept when he said that “some areas around here are pretty primitive, people holding up their trousers with twine and that sort of thing”. The observation drips metropolitan condescension and has justifiably angered people who have every right to expect Mr Stewart to represent them with the respect which is essential for the health of any society, big or otherwise.

Stewart, whose CV includes a spell as deputy governor of a province in Afghanistan and another as tutor to Princes William and Harry, may possibly not have had the best formative experiences for understanding a modern democracy. His squirming attempt at self-exculpation does nothing to convince to the contrary: “I was trying to make the point that Cumbria was not a leafy, wealthy county...and doesn't have the kind of resources we need or deserve”.

Try harder Mr Stewart, try smarter.

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