Rory Stewart, the colourful and interesting Tory MP, has been elected as chairman of the Defence Select Committee. Stewart is a formidable appointment. He is knowledgeable on defence and foreign policy matters: having served as a diplomat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written widely of his experience and insights, and has taught related subjects at Harvard University. He is well-regarded by serving soldiers, many of whom speak highly of his views on counter-insurgency and the work of his charity Turquoise Mountain Foundation. He has, however, taken his head ‘out of the mountains’ of Afghanistan – and sees that security threats have taken new forms, such as cyber security, human rights abuses and the economically unstable, densely populated coastal regions of the world.
Stewart has advised the government on foreign policy at various stages throughout this parliament; but he is not afraid to ask awkward questions of powerful people, which explains why he has won support from across the House. Free-thinking Conservatives such as Douglas Carswell gave him their blessing, and the New Statesman reports that prominent Labour MPs Tessa Jowell, Bob Ainsworth and Dan Jarvis sent an email urging their colleagues to vote for Stewart.
Beyond the machinations of party grandees, Stewart’s victory in this tight race (in which he beat older hands like Dr Julian Lewis) appears to have been secured by the votes of the 2010 intake. This group of MPs are shaping parliament, which should be some consolation for those among their number disappointed by the lack of ministerial and shadow ministerial advancement.