Leading Article: The times they are a-changing

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The Independent Online
THE UNIVERSAL celebration of the Sixties prompted by the 25th anniversary of Woodstock has led with equal inevitability to a search for the spirit of our times now. Last week was quite useful. Michael Portillo and friends ushered in the end of cradle-to-grave social security and mounted a fresh attack on the disabled. There was a small tuna war in the Bay of Biscay, forcing Rwanda from the front pages. Frederick West's solicitor was reported to be attempting to sell taped conversations with him for pounds 1m. Nimbyism maintained its recent renaissance through the efforts of Jilly Cooper, writer, and Alistair Horne, historian. And Lotan Baba, an Indian holy man, rolled two-and-a-half miles through puddles from Parliament Square to Battersea Park in the cause of world peace.

Lotan Baba has rolled 2,500 miles through India. Shivering after his London roll, he said: 'I am very happy, and it was all worth it - but it was very cold. I did it for world peace.' Britain remained resolutely unimpressed. An orthopaedic surgeon said: 'He could do some trauma to his shoulders.'

There were some hopeful signs of the kinder, more caring Britain sought by both Tony Blair and John Major, if not Mr Portillo. No one attacked the memory of Graham Greene. Peter Cushing, a competent actor in minor horror films, died and attracted eulogies not seen since the death of Laurence Olivier. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's new symphony was not heckled. But change does take time. A survey also disclosed that the list of the top 10 landowning families in Britain has scarcely altered in more than a century. The Duke of Atholl, 130,000 acres, was telephoned for his reaction. 'The Duke has left to go grouse shooting,' said his factor at Blair Castle, Perthshire.

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