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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.

Richard Ingrams's Week: One rule for Hogg and another for Cameron

I have never been all that keen on wisteria, that woody rambling climber that left to its own devices will cover the front of many country cottages producing masses of pale mauve blossoms at this time of the year.

Kenwright: summer budget will be tight

Everton chairman hails manager's success despite lean finances

No 10 defends ministers over tax advice claims

Downing Street today moved to defend ministers under fire for claiming for tax advice on their parliamentary expenses.

Four Labour MPs face discipline panel

Four Labour MPs accused of abusing their expenses face the prospect of being forced to step down when their cases are judged by their party's new disciplinary panel today.

MPs hired ex-minister's husband for tax advice

An MP's husband provided personal tax advice to at least five Labour MPs - including Foreign Secretary David Miliband - paid for by parliamentary expenses, it emerged today.

Cameron invites political novices to join the Tory candidates' list

But call for open selection process may be incompatible with leader's demands for immediate election

John Rentoul: If Esther's the answer, the question is wrong

Neither Ms Rantzen, nor Katie Price, can transform our parliamentary system. Trendy quick fixes are not the solution

Brown calls Blair in to No 10 for secret talks as crisis mounts

PM's announcement of national plan for Britain came day after hour-long one-to-one meeting

Voters turn on main parties

Poll shows 80% want independent candidates to challenge 'unethical' MPs at ballot box

Andrew Grice: Off with their heads! But is Westminster justice fair?

The body count is soaring as party leaders crack down on MPs caught in the expenses mire – but backbenchers are first for the chop

Simon Carr: Maybe we've only just begun. Here are three possible effects...

<i>The Independent's</i> sketchwriter on the deadliest of scandals

Phantom mortgage MP to leave Commons at election

The MP for Wirral South, Ben Chapman, last night became the first Labour MP to announce that he would stand down as a result of the scandal over parliamentary expenses.

Pandora: A twist in the tale of Hazel's big cheque

Time for the latest chapter in the enduring saga of Hazel Blears and her peculiar relationship with HM Revenues and Customs, as it emerges that Ms Blears' promise to add £13,332 to the nation's coffers may be rather more complicated that it first seemed.

The Sketch: And for his next trick, Gordon hits himself

How agile do prime ministers need to be? Not agile at all, is the strict answer, but only as long as nothing happens. If there is an event, the ideal prime minister deals with it.

Brown tries to head off poll boycott by activists

Email apology to party workers after fears that campaign is moribund
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?