Articles

Article - The Weather

As I write this column, it is raining heavily.  So far as I can see, and so far as the Met Office is able to predict at this particular moment, the rain I am witnessing as I write is roughly normal for this time of year.  But we are all very aware that the rain experienced a few days back in Cumbria and Lancashire was anything but normal.  Indeed, I believe it is now clear that it was a more concentrated downpour than at any time since records began in the 1850s... 

Article - Democracy

Since the time of my last column, we have witnessed the remarkable spectacle of a genuine parliamentary occasion.Of course, the question of whether to extend the attacks on Da’esh from the Iraqi side of the border to the Syrian side of the border has aroused both conflicting views and strong passions on both sides of the argument.  And of course it is right that, in a liberal democracy such as ours, an important question of this kind should be debated openly and robustly...

Article - Numbers

As I was standing in the Chamber of the House of Commons listening to George Osborne's Autumn Statement a few days ago, I was struck by the surprise registered on the features of some MPs who had obviously been expecting a set of announcements quite different from those he actually made.I don't think that this surprise arose from differing views about complicated questions of fiscal stability - though there are obviously plenty of differing views on these questions within the House of Commons.I think that the surprise arose from sheer perplexity about numbers...

Article - Terrorism

Sometimes things happen in the world that are on such a scale as to put everything else into the shade for a time.  The events in Paris a few days ago were on exactly this scale... 

Article - Charminster & Tolpuddle

Being a member of parliament for a couple of decades is rather like being part of one of Wagner's operas: there are certain leitmotifs that appear and reappear at different stages of their evolution.

In the last few weeks, two of these leitmotifs have appeared for the last time.

Both of these final reappearances are, from my point of view, a cause for some rejoicing...

Article - Remembrance

Once again, the date of Remembrance Sunday has come round -- and, once again, I find myself reading a lesson in Sherborne Abbey.  At the time of writing this column, the service itself is still some 48 hours off. But I know that, when the town band leads the procession of old soldiers, sailors and airmen to the cross outside the Abbey, when the representatives of the various uniformed services and of the schools come forward one by one to lay their wreaths, when the choir sings, when the last post is sounded, when the words of Laurence Binyon's poem for the fallen are read, I shall (like many others) shed a tear or two... 

Article - International Relationships

A few days back, China’s President Xi came to Britain for an unusually long and exceptionally fruitful visit, in which a large amount of mutual trade and investment was agreed, alongside many other useful exchanges on a wide range of topics.   In a couple of weeks’ time, India’s Prime Minister Modi will be making a visit of equal duration and significance.   But I sometimes have the sense that the interest in these visits displayed by the media is not matched by any such feeling on the part of most of our fellow citizens...

Article - Legislation

One of the most notable features of West Dorset is the remarkable generosity that people locally show when it comes to making donations to local causes.I have long since lost count of the number of charity auctions and fund raisers in which I have been involved over the years – and I never fail to be impressed by the extent to which local people (including those who aren’t by any standards well-heeled) are willing to part with their time and their money in order to support local good causes.

Article - Predictions

What will be the most important change in the world over the next two or three decades?  Global warming? The rise of China and India? The shift in geopolitics as cars electrify and fossil fuels dwindle? We are spoiled for possibilities amongst the 'known unknowns' -- and then of course there are the unknown unknowns, the items of which we are currently unaware that may come to dominate our consciousness in due course. Who, in 1980, would have listed the mobile phone as even a possible cause of global transformation by the year 2000?

Article - Peaceful Protest

I am writing this column on one of those beautiful clear, crisp, sunny mornings when it is a delight to be in Dorset – and that delight is particularly acute on this occasion because I have recently returned to our tranquil, rural setting after the hubbub of a party conference in Manchester...