Shortly after I began my working life, on the edge of the Westminster jungle, I landed a job with a political ‘big beast’; an alpha male, in very much the same mould as Dominique Strauss-Kahn: silver-haired, heavy-set, charismatic. For a few months, he ignored me as I busied away researching stats. Then, during what should have been a routine working lunch, the searchlight
of his wandering eye settled on me and out of the blue he declared passionate love: ‘Say you love me too.
One of the first things David Cameron will tell Barack Obama when they meet during the American President’s state visit to Britain next week is that hundreds of British soldiers are going to be withdrawn from Afghanistan this summer. Of the 10,000 British troops currently based in southern Afghanistan, around 450 are to be brought home, with the promise of more to follow, as Mr Cameron cashes in the peace dividend he believes will accrue following the welcome demise of the world’s most infamous terrorist.
You could not mistake the atmosphere in Dublin this week: the state visit of the Queen and Prince Philip has had the full panoply of a historic occasion. It was obvious that the Irish state was wholeheartedly committed to its success, with the most formal protocols in place. Both David Cameron and William Hague have accompanied the Queen for part of the trip, which is highly unusual. The Queen agreed to visit locations associated with those who rose against the Crown — the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square — and showed a graceful sense of respect.
I think we’re all very relieved that Vicky Pryce, the estranged wife of the Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, is not motivated by revenge in writing a book about her ex-husband and dobbing him in to the police.I think we’re all very relieved that Vicky Pryce, the estranged wife of the Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, is not motivated by revenge in writing a book about her ex-husband and dobbing him in to the police.
The government’s new emissions target will despoil the countryside, rob the poor – and enrich landowners like me‘Greener food and greener fuel’ is the promise of Ensus, a firm that opened Europe’s largest (£250 million) bio-ethanol plant at Wilton on Teesside last year, and has now shut it down for lack of profitable customers. This is actually the second shut-down at the plant — which takes subsidies and turns them into motor fuel — the first being a three-week refit to try to stop the stench bothering the neighbours.
The last surviving leader of Norway’s anti-Nazi resistanceOsloEven in the glare of a crisp spring day the execution ground at Akershus Fortress is a chilling place. Snow still fringes the old gun battery and the Oslofjord clinks with ice. Sitting above this small patch of ground, in Norway’s Resistance Museum, I’m reminded of the risks taken by the man sitting next to me. Seventy years ago, Gunnar Sønsteby, the most decorated man in the country and the last remaining leader of the resistance movement, spent five years fighting the Nazi occupation.
In the field of public diplomacy, the tiny Gulf state of Qatar has become a mouse that roars. According to Hillary Clinton, the Emir of Qatar’s television network, Al Jazeera, is knocking spots off the broadcasters of three superpowers in a global struggle for influence being played out across the airwaves. ‘We are in an information war and we are losing,’ Clinton warned the Senate foreign relations committee in March.
LiverpoolThe payday loan shop in Breck Road erupts from its grey surroundings. Everything is painted yellow, black and red — colours that in the natural world mean ‘do not touch’ but that serve here as a lure. ‘Need cash now?’ ask the posters in the windows, in scarlet block capitals on a sunburst background. ‘We can help.’The shop is well placed. Breck Road is where Everton meets Anfield — the centre of Liverpool’s football rivalry, but also of its destitution.