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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
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
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Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn