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the challenges of logic and emotion

How difficult it is to defend the things which we value and take for granted in Britain and the constitution. When I stop colleagues in the long carpeted corridors that seem to define the House of Commons and ask for their support – for the Union with Scotland, or the House of Lords, or upland […]


the boundary commission

The Boundary Commission has placed its chisel into the High Street ridge, where the Roman Road falls to Troutbeck, and struck it with a hammer, shattering the county like a piece of Skiddaw slate.  One long crack now runs towards the coast, another North to Carlisle, another South to Arnside – making a rent in our […]

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less is more: libya

Tripoli has fallen since the last issue of the Herald. And an ‘intervention’, which was never quite an intervention, is ending. It was never popular outside Libya: many felt it was a distraction and a waste of money. Few predicted that Tripoli would fall so easily. And the aftermath seemed doomed to chaos. But instead, […]


my favourite painting

  Country Life have, this week, published a brief description of my favourite Painting – The Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Asano by Simone Martini. Martini portrays the resistance of the Virgin, the angel Gabriel moves towards her like a hawk, his damask plaid alive like a third wing behind him. I remember a sheet of […]


big versus small: charities

The small is displaced by the large, day after day: the smaller hill farm by the larger; the market store by the supermarket; the community by the district hospital. The same story has been repeated over the last fifteen years with thousands of schools and post-offices, dairy farms and pubs. And it is about to […]


constitutional reform

Good policies start from what is here, now; from what people are demanding; and from what we can do. Bad policies start from what ought to be present, what people ought to want, and what we ought to achieve. Thus a good decision, on how many sheep to keep on a fell, draws on an […]


wind turbines

We were nervous about the rally against wind turbines last Saturday. We worried that no-one would turn up, or that a crowd of hostile ‘antis’ would be bussed in to shout us down. But by eleven thirty, fifty yards north of the Scottish border, there were over two hundred people, well-wrapped against the cold. Two […]


parliament speaks

I have been in parliament for over a year but I am only just beginning to understand how it works. It speaks: all the time. It is a last fragment of preliterate England: a place where what matters is not what is written, still less what is e-mailed, but what is spoken. Speaking is the […]


royal wedding

The centre of London on the day of the wedding was cut by police barriers; the underground stations were closed; it felt hot; and there was someone on every paving-stone between Millbank and Leicester Square. It took me an hour and a half to find a route though the crowd back to my aunt’s flat, and I just had […]


easter ramblings

It is just before six in the morning. I have finally unearthed (at the bottom of a cupboard) my  trousers for the Royal Wedding and I am in my aunt’s kitchen in London preparing for Parliament: the wood-pigeon outside has the gravelly voice of a cockney gangster. Most MPs seem to have spent Easter ‘pounding […]