The FPA's house was once William Gladstone's London home, and Sir Peter Ustinov, who lived along the road as a boy, gave a long and hilarious speech about diplomacy, politics and much else. As a boy before the war, he informed the assembled multi-national caste, he had been taken to dinner nearby, to hear a leading Nazi diplomat explain the wonders of the new regime. ``Ze new Germany is so efficient,'' the Nazi had told the attentive room, ``that in my office I haff my desk. And on my desk I haff a bottom. And if anything should happen, I only haff to press my bottom... and four policemen come out.'' Ustinov said he had remained resolutely unawed by the might of Hitler's Germany ever afterwards. The room laughed a little nervously; but Sir Peter is no xenophobe. Though he loves Britain, he is, in his phrase to us, a ``confirmed Anglo-sceptic''.
Another luminous moment in the week came early on Wednesday, when I was in Byzantium. The sky was glittering and fresh. All around were minarets, bone-white spires, Romanesque towers and the flash of sun on gold and brass. I was, in fact, standing high up on the roof of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, looking round at the unearthly skyline of South Kensington. We were standing amid tar-pots and pipes after hearing a talk by Daniel Libeskind, architect of the V&A's extraordinary new extension. Hardly anyone has seen this view of London - a truly amazing one - but, when the Libeskind building opens in 2001, everyone will be able to. It includes a glass viewing gallery arching high over the museum. Some people have written in to the paper complaining about our enthusiasm for the Libeskind design. I can only say that if they could have seen it as a three-dimensional model, with shimmering tiles and plunging angles, many of them would have been captivated and entranced, rather than outraged.
One characteristic of Independent readers, if the postbag is anything to go by, is that many of you are fascinated by constitutions and radical political change. We have had some brilliant blueprints for a British federation posted to us recently, but my favourite is the plan from Duncan Armour for interactive democracy. With admirable self-confidence, he writes that "With the help of people across the country I'm putting together an initiative which will mean the replacement of politicians after the next general election with direct input from the People via push-button voting.'' Let no-one say our readers lack ambition.
Speaking of constitutions, our initiative on European confederation has produced a deluge of letters, running heavily in favour. To my surprise, a senior member of the Cabinet and a clutch of leading Labour people have been among those who have told me, privately, theythinkweareabout right. Could it be that there is, after all, some common ground here, where Euro-sceptics and Anglo-sceptics can unite?Reuse content