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Even the room somewhere in Westminster where the historic meeting was to take place was kept secret until the last minute. Once “C”, Sir John Sawers, and his two colleagues arrived, the Intelligence and Security Committee chairman Sir Malcolm Rifkind announced a time delay on the TV broadcast lest anything endangering national security should be said. Mysteriously, the man sitting immediately behind MI5’s Andrew Parker bore a passing resemblance to Nikita Khrushchev. We were, in short, all keyed up.

Simon Carr: So how loudly does one have to talk to be heard in the House?

Sketch: There is a growing body of private ill-will towards the Speaker (not just wishful thinking on my part)

Diary: A new phase opens in Labour's civil war

Neatly timed for the publication of the 127th book about the first instalment (Jonathan Powell's), the Labour Civil War Mark II began at the weekend. Leading the neo-Blairite cavaliers was Peter Hyman, the Mr Tony adviser turned inner-city Mr Chips and Newsnight sage, who deflected any suspicions about his friend David Miliband's sense of entitlement by accusing Little Ed of "stealing his brother's crown". Ed's victory was a "catastrophe" for Labour, says Peter.

Matthew Norman: No wonder Nick's poll ratings are plummeting

With any potentially transformative national event, our guide is the Chinese communist who, asked about the impact the French Revolution almost two centuries later, said it was too soon to tell. So hats off to Nick Robinson, the BBC's very own Zhou Enlai, for patiently hanging on for almost three months to make his film Five Days That Changed Britain.

Mandelson memoir sparks Labour Party infighting

Senior Labour figures pleaded for calm yesterday as the imminent publication of Peter Mandelson's memoirs, The Third Man, provoked a fresh round of party infighting.

The Feral Beast: Lordy, lordy

Paul Dacre failed to get a peerage in Gordon Brown's dissolution honours, but might he be rewarded in this Saturday's birthday honours? Some say the Daily Mail editor could have expected to be rewarded for his personal loyalty to Brown, even if his paper did back the Tories in the election. If David Cameron had ennobled him last week, it would have echoed Margaret Thatcher's arrival in office – the first peer she created was a Lord Dacre, the late historian Hugh Trevor-Roper. But all is not lost: whispers reach me that a knighthood may not be out of the question next weekend.

Mixed verdict on expenses-hit candidates

Jacqui Smith was close to tears but Hazel Blears wore a quiet smile of relief. In the contrasting fates of these former ministers, the electorate's final judgement on the expenses scandal proved every bit as unpredictable as the campaign.

Cleethorpes: the acid test for Cameron's victory hopes

Michael Brown revisits his old seat to find his party in a two-horse race with Labour

Which constituencies to watch: a brief guide to results night

From Brighton Pavilion to Ynys Mon, the key seats to look out for and what they signify

Blears confirms illegal immigrant worked on campaign

Former Cabinet minister Hazel Blears today confirmed that an illegal immigrant had been working as a volunteer on her election campaign.

Nevin's Notes: An alternative take on the election

*Now it gets dirty. Well. Nick Clegg was warned he would now come under close scrutiny. Let me tell you a few things that have been mentioned recently: 1. His mother is Dutch. 2. His father is half-Russian. 3. His spin doctor is German. 4. His wife is Spanish. 5. He has lived in Hungary. 6. And Belgium. 7. His children have Spanish first names. 8. He speaks a lot of foreign languages. 9. His children are on holiday in Spain. 10. He once worked as a ski instructor in Austria. Are you getting the picture, or pintura, as he doubtless says? No? How about this exclusive: you know that in Scotland a clegg is a horsefly? I can reveal that it has the exactly the same meaning in Norwegian. Enough said?

Pandora: Morrissey's turkey talk is off the menu

Few vegetarians in the public eye can lay claim to fighting for the cause with the kind of vigour offered by that revered Mancunian miserablist, Morrissey.

Flipping outrage! Scandal of second homes is swept under carpet

Reforms of MPs' expenses will exclude one of the most serious and common abuses of the whole system

After his YouTube triumph, Gordon launches 'fireside chat' podcasts

Unemployment is at nearly 2.5 million, and the world cannot agree on a solution to global poverty, climate change and the banking system – but Gordon Brown has sought to reassure Britain he is in control with a series of "fireside chats" inspired by Franklin D Roosevelt.

Alleged plot to smear Army chief's daughter may have sparked Joyce resignation

Labour figures planned to "smear" the daughter of the new head of the Army because of her links to David Cameron, it was claimed last night.

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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen