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Rory Stewart

Author of The Places In Between

9+ Works 3,664 Members 104 Reviews 8 Favorited

About the Author

Rory Stewart is a former infantry officer, diplomat in Indonesia and Yugoslavia, and fellow at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government

Includes the names: Rory Stewart, Rory Steward

Works by Rory Stewart

Associated Works

Arabian Sands (1959) — Introduction, some editions — 1,234 copies
The Road to Oxiana (1937) — Preface, some editions — 1,227 copies
Granta 78: Bad Company (2002) — Contributor — 135 copies
Oxtravels: Meetings with Remarkable Travel Writers (2011) — Contributor — 57 copies

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Reviews

Illuminating and frustrating, but a good read.
I enjoyed this book, which provides some insight into Rory Stewart’s time as a member of the UK’s parliament. Stewart comes from a very privileged background and fits easily into my image of a typical Conservative Member of Parliament, benefiting from not being a career MP, and being an ex-MP now allowing him to be reasonably candid in his views.

I found myself skipping through the Brexit negotiations chapter, not because it was uninteresting, but because I am still so angry at the economic and social shortsightedness of the “hard Brexit” gamblers.
But then the chapters about Stewart’s attempt to become the leader of the Conservative Party (and Prime Minister), primarily against Boris Johnson, were fascinating and gripping, as I had not followed this at the time. These chapters of course also have the inevitability of Greek tragedy, as we know that Johnson wins the leadership contest (and the almost complete mess that followed).
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CarltonC | 6 other reviews | Apr 3, 2024 |
A magnificent read, just like everything else that Rory Stewart has turned out - this is the third of his that I've read, and each one has left me with the unmistakable impression of being in the company of a writer whose work will be fit for posterity.

In this book, Rory summarises his political career, from the decision to run for office through to his withdrawal from this side of public life after failing to become the next Prime Minister. It is a book of honesty - and at times, about Rory's startling naivety, such as when he agreed to meet the unreliable Michael Gove around the time of the leadership contest, as if he though anything could come of that... - and one that paints a brighter picture of some political figures, while simultaneously suggesting that the whole system is broken.… (more)
½
 
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soylentgreen23 | 6 other reviews | Feb 9, 2024 |
I don’t often read the memoirs of politicians. One thinks of those invariably huge and unbelievably tedious books written by former prime ministers which are little more than extended essays in self-justification. Every ex-PM gets one, but who reads them? Rory Stewart isn’t a former prime minister, though not for want of trying. His book is certainly not short on self-justification but is also reflective, passionate and unusually frank.

Stewart was, in many ways, a Tory politician from central casting: a patriotic Old Etonian who revered the monarchy and the military, and believed in limited government, tradition and slow change. His pro-European views and mild social liberalism, not to mention his intelligence and charm, would once have placed him at the head of his party. That he was eventually expelled from the parliamentary Conservative Party, along with twenty other MPs for voting against a no-deal Brexit, tells you nothing about him, but a great deal about the Conservative Party’s reinvention as a populist party of the right.

Stewart spent nearly ten years in Parliament. What he has to say about it has been said many times before by others, though not usually - with the notable exception of Tony Benn - by former cabinet ministers. He portrays a parliamentary system in which loyalty to the leader is rewarded and independent thought and action punished. A politics dominated by empty slogans and party self-interest. Senior civil servants who stand in the way of change and a highly centralised system in which all power flows downwards from the prime minister. Ministers appointed to departments they have little knowledge of and then quickly reshuffled to new ones before they can learn. As Stewart observes, some of the appointments themselves look to the innocent eye wilfully perverse: doctors appointed to the Department of Justice and lawyers to the Department of Health. A little learning in a minister evidently being regarded as a dangerous thing. Stewart himself served in six different ministerial positions in four departments in less than four years. Before becoming an MP he had extensive experience as a diplomat in the Middle East and Asia, but in the Foreign Office he was made Minister for Africa (despite protesting to the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, that he knew nothing about Africa). After that, having by his own admission never given a thought to the subject of prisons, he was put in charge of all the prisons in England and Wales. Still, Prisons Minister was a role he came to love and have some success at.

Stewart emerges from his own account as a complex, self-divided, and even paradoxical figure. His disillusionment with Parliament started not long after entering its hallowed portals. ‘Parliament’, he writes, ‘increasingly reminded me of a boarding school, stripped by scarlet fever of most of the responsible adults and all the nicer and kinder pupils’. Yet he remained politically ambitious. He was, it seems, simultaneously sceptical of power and desirous of it; appalled by the reality of Parliament, he nonetheless remained spellbound by the idea of Parliament and the political life. He admits that, as a backbencher, he usually towed the party line and didn’t speak out publicly about things he privately disagreed with. He was deeply serious with a strong self-publicising streak. He also combined formidable intellect with a capacity for breathtaking naivety which sometimes landed him in trouble. He once told a tabloid journalist that parts of his rural constituency were ‘pretty primitive’ and some of the old farmers held their trousers up with twine. He genuinely meant no offence and was horrified by the entirely predictable media storm in a teacup which followed (he reveals in the book that he briefly contemplated suicide).

He writes affectionately about his Cumbrian constituents and admiringly of Ken Clarke, David Gauke and Theresa May. Most of the Conservative big hitters he encountered during his parliamentary career, however, are summarily dispatched in elegant yet lethal prose: David Cameron, Liz Truss and, of course, Boris Johnson. But, although it contains a great deal of anger, frustration and sadness, Politics on the Edge is remarkably free of bitterness. Stewart’s critique is essentially of structures and culture. The individual actors enabled by the system are almost incidental and certainly interchangeable. Stewart is writing about a Conservative administration but most of what he has to say about it would also apply to a Labour one. And, although his personal political drama took place in Britain, it has much wider relevance. This is the story of a moderate and rational politician gradually being engulfed by the rising tide of populism, fantasising demagogues, and the polarising tendencies of social media. He also writes well about print and broadcast journalists obsessed with political trivia. All these themes come together in the gripping final chapters which deal with his 2019 leadership bid.

I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Conservative Party, but I admired Rory Stewart even when he was an MP and, after reading this powerful and thoughtful memoir, I admired him even more.
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gpower61 | 6 other reviews | Jan 31, 2024 |
Not sure why he did this. Escaping from something? Just last night upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d go away.
 
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mnicol | 75 other reviews | Jan 14, 2024 |

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Works
9
Also by
9
Members
3,664
Popularity
#6,908
Rating
3.9
Reviews
104
ISBNs
85
Languages
9
Favorited
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