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Stewart made Defra junior minister

Published 12/05/2015

Rory Stewart is the MP for Penrith and The Border
Rory Stewart is the MP for Penrith and The Border

Rory Stewart, the former diplomat who has been a prominent critic of Tory defence policy, has been made a junior minister at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

As chairman of the defence select committee in the last parliament, Mr Stewart was regarded as an authoritative and knowledgeable voice on foreign and military affairs and critics will see his promotion to the government ranks in an unrelated brief as an attempt to silence his criticisms.

The M P has led calls on David Cameron to end his refusal to guarantee military spending will continue to meet the 2% of GDP target set by Nato, warning in the run-up to the general election that it was undermining Britain's credibility and emboldening Russian president Vladimir Putin.

It would be "a big mistake" not to commit to the threshold for the whole of the parliament, Mr Stewart, who had a brief stint in the Army himself.

He has made no secret of his desire for a ministerial career - albeit in a role at the Ministry of Defence - and as Penrith and The Border MP he represents a very rural seat in Cumbria.

He told Total Politics magazine in November that his "dream career" would include a spell as a minister so that he could seek to push through defence reforms.

"There are certain things I would love to do which you could probably only do by being a minister," he said - adding that he wanted the chance to get into the "nitty gritty" of military structures.

Plans to turn his own buccaneering career - including a 32-day walk across Afghanistan at the height of the US-led military campaign in 2002 and a spell as deputy governor of southern Iraqi provinces after the 2003 war - into a Hollywood movie have hit the buffers.

Brad Pitt had bought the rights to his story - and Orlando Bloom was reported to have been lined up to play Mr Stewart - but the MP revealed it was of the table.

''They paid me for an option but I think they are not going to make it. I think being a Tory MP is not a very sexy end to a movie,'' he told the magazine.

It remains to be seen whether a junior ministerial position at Defra revives the interest.

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