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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Ex-diplomat heads list to succeed Penrith MP David Maclean

Diplomat, Harvard professor, governor in Iraq and tutor to Princes William and Harry – Rory Stewart has had a remarkable career.

Rory Stewart photo
Rory Stewart

His next job could be MP for Penrith and the Border.

Mr Stewart, 36, is one of six Conservative hopefuls shortlisted to replace David Maclean who is stepping down at the next election.

The candidate will be selected at an American-style open primary in Penrith on October 25.

The six would-be MPs include a high-flying businesswoman and a former council leader.

But none can match the CV of Mr Stewart.

He was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Malaysia and, like the Conservative leader David Cameron, was educated at Eton.

He served briefly as an officer with the Black Watch then studied history and philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford.

It was while he was a student that he acted as a summer tutor to Princes William and Harry.

Mr Stewart joined the Diplomatic Service after university, working first in Indonesia and then Montenegro. He took two years off in 2000 and began walking from Turkey to Bangladesh. He covered 6,000 miles on foot alone across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal, a journey described in his book The Places in Between.

In 2003, he became the coalition deputy governor of two provinces in Iraq, which led him to write a second acclaimed book, The Prince of the Marshes.

He was awarded the OBE in 2004, became a Fellow of the Carr Centre at Harvard University and has advised the US Obama administration on Afghanistan, returning there to run a charitable organisation, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation.

Mr Stewart was a Labour supporter in his youth but put his name forward as a Conservative candidate in response to Mr Cameron’s call in May for political novices to stand.

He has also been shortlisted for a vacancy in Bracknell, Berkshire, to be filled at an open primary on October 17.

He was one of 130 applicants for Penrith and the Border, one of the Conservatives’ safest seats with a majority of 11,904 in 2005.

None of the six applicants – three men and three women – is from Cumbria.

Fiona Bruce, a Conservative councillor in Warrington, is a former “businesswoman of the year”.

She set up her own community law firm, which now has 10 solicitors, and was recently named by a Conservative website as one of 20 candidates who would make excellent MPs.

Christine Emmett, originally from Liverpool but now based in the East Midlands, managed £450m of procurement for the Channel Tunnel project. She is a non-executive director of University Hospitals in Leicester.

The remaining would-be MPs all have strong farming connections.

Robert Light, who farms at Bradford in Yorkshire, is a director of the Environment Agency and a former leader of Kirklees Council.

Chris Galley is a sheep farmer from Northumberland and a committed Christian who lists his interests as rugby, music and politics. Lucille Nicholson, of Chester-le-Street, Durham, runs an organic livestock and arable farm and is a self-employed property developer.

Any elector in Penrith and the Border – including non-Conservatives – can vote at the selection meeting. Details of how to register to attend will be announced shortly.

Former Border TV presenter Tony Baker has been lined up to chair the meeting at the Hired Lad.

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