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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

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.

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

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

Brown tries to head off poll boycott by activists

Email apology to party workers after fears that campaign is moribund

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.

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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
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Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
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General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'