Rory Stewart was excellent, last night at the Edinburgh Book Festival. He hasn’t actually published a book recently, and explained in the first ten minutes why this was the case (he hasn’t yet completed The Marches).
He is the MP for Penrith and The Border, he went to school at Eton, studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and was recently appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. He is a very refreshing speaker, about various topics, including his walk through Afghanistan, work in Iraq and current affairs. The audience was very impressed with the way he answered questions. Even the subject of the Highland Clearances cropped up briefly, once, in an answer relating to why farmers in his constituency are finding it difficult to survive at the present.
At one stage, there was an unusual question from someone in the audience. “Mr Stewart, you have mentioned the soil in passing a couple of times this evening. What is your actual relationship with the soil?”
Well, as you can imagine, he started by saying that he had never been asked this question before, and then continued with a fairly lengthy answer. This included a reference to Canmore, the website with 1.3 million catalogue entries for archaeological sites, buildings, industry and maritime heritage across Scotland, and also included information about his childhood home and bits of Scottish history. It got a big round of applause from the crowd. I don’t think that there are many politicians who could talk so enthusiastically and educationally about themselves and the soil!
He seems like a highly intelligent and inspirational chap.