Monday morning, on the Baltic Air 137 to Riga. I finish a taut John Grisham thriller, dip into Kilcullen’s brilliant thesis on counter insurgency, The Accidental Guerrilla, then ponder my editor’s benevolent but searching comments yesterday on the book which I have written with Ed Young on British foreign secretaries. Nearly three hours well spent.Riga looks handsome in the evening sun, lilac and chestnuts a week behind London.
It’s true there are signs of an economic recovery, says Martin Vander Weyer, but we should also beware a ‘third wave’ of destructionIt’s springtime in North Yorkshire, which traditionally means lashing rain and temperatures like February. But however unseasonal the weather, nature knows when it’s time to wake up: in the first few days of May, my beech hedge always sheds its dead brown leaves and bursts into fresh green.
Though the moral fabric of Parliament is in tatters, its architecture remains an inspiration. Stephen Bayley celebrates Pugin’s crazy, magnificent clock towerBoing. That most familiar sound is now 150 years old. Because I am fortunate enough to live near Westminster, I often hear it during solitary moments at night in the bathroom. But, like the rest of the world, I know it even better from radio.
I once gave the Conservatives their biggest ever donation, yet I recently took the difficult decision to support Ukip for the European elections on 4 June. So I have been expelled from the Tory party. I am not an observant person but I do not seem to have been cut by anyone since then; rather the opposite. Goodness knows how many people, ranging from a vicar to a pensioner, have told me that they have voted, and will vote this time, Conservative in all national elections but Ukip in the European elections.
Rod Liddle says that Sarah Teather, the righteous young Lib Dem MP who refused to claim for a second home, proves that it wasn’t mandatory for MPs to fleece usThe worst case of expenses fraud I ever encountered as a journalist came when I worked for the BBC and a foreign correspondent claimed a few hundred quid for a lawnmower. This created a bit of a scandal and the chap was quite speedily sacked.
Sir Olaf Caroe — a legendary figure of the Raj, ethnographer of the Pashtuns and last administrator of the North-West Frontier of British India — wrote in 1958 that ‘unlike other wars, Afghan wars become serious only when they are over; in British times at least they were apt to produce an after-crop of tribal unrest [and] constant intrigue among the border tribes.’ Western leaders would have been wise to consider his words after the ‘stunning defeat’ of the Taleban, whose ramshackle theocratic tyranny crumbled in less than ten weeks’ fighting after 9/11.