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Welcome to the jungle

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

Obama’s war

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during the American President’s state visit to Britain next week is that hundreds of British soldiers are going to be withdrawn from Afghanistan this summer.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


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

Hell hath no fury like a public-spirited ex-wife

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,

A green dark age

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.

Our friend in the north

The last surviving leader of Norway’s anti-Nazi resistance Oslo Even 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

Who speaks for the world?

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

Never-never land

Liverpool The 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.