£50m to improve cancer drug access
A new £50 million fund has been launched by the Government to give patients access to cancer drugs.
The fund will pay for medicines which can extend life by a few months or improve quality of life but which may have been rejected by the health watchdog as too expensive.
It will also cover drugs currently used off-label by clinicians to treat conditions not covered by the medicine's licence, or those which have yet to be appraised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
Doctors working in regional groups will decide how the funding is spent in their area based on advice from cancer specialists.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the fund makes good on a promise the Tories made during the election race to provide money from central budget savings to pay for cancer drugs.
"I promised that I would help patients in England get cancer drugs that are readily available in the rest of Europe," he said.
"Patients should have access to innovative cancer drugs that can extend or improve their quality of life and which their doctors have recommended, which is why I'm determined to take action now."
Before the election, the Tories said the cancer fund would total £200 million, coming from the cash the NHS would save on its national insurance bill to the Treasury, but critics, including experts from the University of Leeds, have said the bill will be far higher and could rise to £600 million.
However, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham questioned how the plans would be funded, claiming that money saved from stopping the National Insurance rise would be cancelled out by a rise in VAT to 17.5% in January.
Mr Burnham also said the Government will be forced to explain why funding for cancer treatments is being prioritised over drugs for other conditions such as Alzheimer's or motor neurone disease.


Northern Rock finance boss banned for hiding arrears

Northern Rock signThe misreporting of mortgage arrears led to a false picture of Northern Rock's strength

Northern Rock's former finance director, David Jones, has been fined and banned by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for his part in the misreporting of mortgage arrears.

The FSA fined Mr Jones £320,000 and banned him from performing any function in relation to any regulated activity.

Mr Jones said the penalties were "unfair and disproportionate".

He is now the third former executive from Northern Rock to be banned and fined by the regulator.

Related stories

In April, two others - the former deputy chief executive David Baker and the former credit director Richard Barclay - were fined a total of £650,000 by the FSA for failing to ensure accurate financial information.


The FSA found that Mr Jones' misconduct started in mid-January 2007 when he agreed, along with David Baker, to allow false mortgage arrears figures to appear in footnotes accompanying the 2006 annual accounts.

As a result of these actions, Northern Rock left out almost 2,000 repossessions that were pending, but had not yet taken place.

Start Quote

[David Jones] had numerous opportunities to put things right, but failed to do so”

Margaret ColeFinancial Services Authority

Mr Jones stressed that he had co-operated with the investigation and accepted that he did not ensure that financial information was presented correctly.

But he said the FSA's judgement was too severe: "I consider that the FSA's conclusions and imposed penalty are both unfair and disproportionate."

The FSA said that, from 2005, Northern Rock staff were under pressure to report arrears at half the rate of rivals.

If they had reported correct figures, said the FSA, Northern Rock's arrears would have increased by more than 50%, or repossessions figures by about 300%.

But, crucially, it would also have given investors and depositors a truer picture of the health of the bank.

Mr Jones argued, however, that investors received sufficient information to assess Northern Rock's financial position.


Northern Rock relied heavily on positive perceptions in order to attract the funds that catapulted it into becoming the UK's fifth largest lender.

But the credit crisis revealed it as unsound, and its near-collapse resulted in it being nationalised.

Margaret Cole, FSA director of enforcement and financial crime, said: "Jones had a duty to reveal the true position to the public and to important internal committees. He had numerous opportunities to put things right, but failed to do so.

"This is a message to all FSA approved persons, that they must take their individual responsibilities seriously at all times, or suffer the consequences."


Hans Blix: 'Iraq .....

Hans Blix: 'Iraq weapons inspectors were not given enough time'

It was "very hard" for Iraq to declare weapons programmes that did not exist, former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said today.
Dr Blix said UN Security Council resolution 1441, passed four months before the March 2003 invasion, gave Saddam Hussein the "chance for a new start".
He told the Iraq Inquiry he privately believed Saddam had kept weapons of mass destruction, but criticised the short time his Unmovic inspection team was given to search for them.
Dr Blix said he was in favour of resolution 1441, passed on November 8 2002, which declared Iraq in "material breach" of its obligations to disarm and paved the way for the return of weapons inspectors.
"The declaration, I felt, might give Iraq a chance for a new start," he said.
"If they had weapons, which I thought might well be the case, they had an opportunity. Now here it is, they could put the blame on some general or other."
Inquiry panel member Sir Roderic Lyne asked him: "Did you feel that it gave Iraq a realistic possibility of meeting the requirements of the resolution?"
Dr Blix replied: "Yes, except that it was very hard for them to declare any weapons when they didn't have any."
The former weapons inspector said he believed another resolution explicitly authorising military action was needed before attacks could be launched on Iraq.
"To me it was clear that a second resolution was required," he said.
Resolution 1441 said the weapons inspectors should give an update to the UN Security Council within 60 days.
Dr Blix questioned how this worked in practice, particularly in the light of the coalition's initial plans to invade Iraq from the north through Turkey.
He said: "I am a little puzzled, I must say, at how they calculated because the impression was that the invasion would take place through Turkey and that it would occur even in the beginning of January.
"That would have given (a) very very short time to the inspection.
"As it turned out we only had three-and-a-half months, but had they gone into Turkey it would have been even shorter."
He said he told then-prime minister Tony Blair in autumn 2002 of his belief that Saddam had maintained his WMD programmes.
"I, like most people at the time, felt that Iraq retains weapons of mass destruction," he said.
"I did not say so publicly. I said it perhaps to Mr Blair in September 2002 privately, but not publicly."
Dr Blix also spoke of his disquiet at the US national security strategy published in September 2002, which set out the Bush administration's belief in its right to launch pre-emptive attacks.
He said: "The US in 2002, that time you refer to, threw it overboard. I think they were high on military at the time. They said, 'we can do it'."
The former weapons inspector compared attempts to deal with Iraq's supposed WMD in 2002-03 with current efforts to stop Tehran's ambitions to become a nuclear power.
"We have economic pressure against Iran. I do not think that is illegal. I think the use of force against Iran today would be illegal," he said.


Afghanistan "The War Logs"

Afghanistan: The war logs

Afghanistan war logs: Wikileaks founder rebuts White House criticism

Julian Assange rejects accusation that publishing thousands of secret US military files about the war in Afghanistan has compromised America's national security
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks a news conference at the Frontline Club in central London
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks a news conference at the Frontline Club in central London. Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters
The founder of the whistleblowing website Wikileaks today defended his decision to publish thousands of secret US military files about the war inAfghanistan, faced with criticism from the White House for placing troops in danger.
Julian Assange said his organisation was currently working through a backlog of further secret material and was expecting a "substantial increase in submissions" from whistleblowers after one of the biggest leaks in US military history.
The documents have revealed unreported incidents of Afghan civilian killings and information about secret operations against Taliban leaders, as well as highlighting US fears that Pakistan's intelligence service was aiding the Afghan uprising.
Assange rejected accusations that the leak had compromised America's national security. "We are familiar with groups whose abuse we expose attempting to criticise the messenger to distract from the power of the message," he said.
"We don't see any difference in the White House's response to this case to the other groups that we have exposed. We have tried hard to make sure that this material does not put innocents at harm. All the material is over seven months old so is of no current operational consequence, even though it may be of very significant investigative consequence."
Speaking at a press conference at the Frontline Club in central London, Assange said that the 90,000 leaked US military documents about the war in Afghanistan would help shape understanding of the past six years of fighting.
Earlier, the White House said the leaks "could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security".
It said that Wikileaks had made no effort to contact US security services, but insisted that what it called the "irresponsible leaks" would not "impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people".
In London, the security minister Lady Neville-Jones, former chair of the UK's joint intelligence committee, described the leak as "really serious stuff" and questioned how the documents had been obtained.
"We don't know how they got that material – it may be a combination of leaking of documents, but also one strongly suspects they have hacked into systems as well.
"This is a very, very big story. But if you stop to think about it for a moment, military systems have to be secure because people's lives are at stake."
The Guardian, along with the New York Times and German weekly Der Spiegel, were given access to the archive and have spent several weeks investigating the logs. In order not to compromise intelligence sources or to put forces at risk, the Guardian has only published a selection of the logs, relating to significant events.
The White House national security adviser, General Jim Jones, stressed that the documents related to a period from January 2004 to December 2009, during the administration of President George Bush and before President Obama ordered a "surge" in Afghanistan.
"President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on al-Qaida and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years," he said.
Labour leadership candidate David Miliband, said the "war logs" showed that the war could not be won by military means alone.
"We cannot kill our way out of an insurgency. Instead, the battle for power is fought in the minds of the local population, insurgents and western publics. The purpose of military effort and civilian improvement is to create the conditions for political settlement.
"There is now a race against time to persuade the Afghan people that the correct strategy is in place and show our own people it can succeed. Better Afghan security forces, better police, better schooling and economic opportunities are all vital but not enough. None of them are durable or possible without a political settlement."
Miliband, the former foreign secretary, said any peace settlement "must include the vanquished as well as the victors" and urged the government in Kabul to involve Afghans in "defining a political endgame".
Elsewhere, experts analysed the damage inflicted on the war effort by the leak. British military expert professor Michael Clarke, director of the Royal United Services Institute thinktank, said the leaked files were less damaging than the Abu Ghraib Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal but would prove awkward for politicians.
"There is no doubt that the leaks are politically pretty damaging. The papers give an impression of a lack of military discrimination in how operations were conducted. They are also appearing at the worst possible time, particularly in the United States, because people are looking for an exit strategy. This is old bad news at a new bad time."
In the US, the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee and former Democrat presidential candidate, John Kerry, responded to the leak with a direct challenge to the administration. "However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America's policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan," he said.
"Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right."


The Bolshoi Ballet: SpartacusIvan Vasiliev and Nina Kaptsova in Spartacus

Expressive detail … Ivan Vasiliev as Spartacus and Nina Kaptsova as Phrygia. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

A bad performance can make Spartacus feel like the worst kind of choreography-by-numbers. Grigorovich's 1968 ballet delivers its monumental effects by repeating every jump, skip or triumphal salute in multiples of four. The characters switch in blunt succession from heroism to horror, piety to brutality. Khachaturian's score trundles out its themes by rote, and you can find yourself passing the time – all three and three-quarter hours of it – by counting the number of shields and swords being brandished on stage. And then you get performances like this one, with which the Bolshoi opened its summer London season.
  1. Spartacus
  2. Royal Opera House,
  3. London
  4. WC2
  1. Until 8 August
  2. Box office:
    020-7304 4000
  3. More details
The power to transform Spartacus from Soviet museum piece to living classic lies primarily in its lead dancer – and the Bolshoi's Ivan Vasiliev is beyond compelling. We know from past appearances that this is a man who has carved out his own virtuosity, through the swivelling, scissoring embellishments of his enormous jump and the inhuman assurance of his pirouettes. But Spartacus also reveals Vasiliev as a maturing artist. He inflects the most juggernaut step with expressive detail – his eyes pooling depths of anguish or hope, his body tugging against captivity. The shape of each split jeté or rivoltade is etched, definitively, in mid-air. Even the standard string of pirouettes with which Spartacus celebrates his leadership of the revolt is reinvented as Vasiliev arches his upper body on each rotation, as if ecstatically breathing the air of freedom.
It's a performance that most dancers could only hope to give once in a lifetime. But magnificent as Vasiliev is, this Spartacus isn't a one-man show. There's a collective commitment in the company's performance that gives a true and sympathetic reading of the ballet's period style. Danced with this degree of intelligence, we get to see exhilarating echoes of old Soviet constructivism in Grigorovich's choreography, especially in the industrial grandeur of its climactic tableaux – the massing of the Roman army; the death of Spartacus. In scenes such as the Russian orgy, we get to appreciate just how radical the hint of 60s free expression and pop-art colour must once have looked.
There are fine individual performances, too. Nina Kaptsova is textbook Phrygia, a wisp of moral rectitude steeled by a revolutionary fervour, and Alexander Volchkov – served by an unlikely, but ideal, mix of Julian Clary prettiness and technical incisiveness – brings a barbed glitter to the role of the narcissistic bully, Crassus.


Post-Harry Potter, Radcliffe goes goth, Felton goes 'Apes'

Daniel Radcliffe
    Now that the Harry Potter series has ended filming, the actors will be appearing at Comic-Con in San Diego this weekend to present Part 1 of the final set of films, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. After the big reveal, Daniel Radcliffe will start production on the thriller The Woman in Black in 3D later this year.
Based on the gothic novel by Susan Hill and directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake), the story follows Radcliffe as a young lawyer sorting through the estate of a deceased client in her remote old house, when frightening secrets and a ghost seeking revenge surface.
The former Harry Potter has also signed for the remake of World War I drama All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Journey is the Destination portraying Dan Eldon, artist and photojournalist.
Rupert Grint, aka Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter franchise, will star in the comedy Eddie the Eagle, playing Britain's Olympic ski jumper Eddie Edwards.
Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy, is set to join the cast of the upcoming Rise of the Apes, the prequel to the Planet of the Apes. He will co-star with James Franco (Milk, Howl), Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings), and John Lithgow (Shrek).
He plays the son of Brian Cox's character from the original film, co-owner of an ape facility where genetic engineering experiments create intelligent apes. The film is directed by Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) and is scheduled to hit screens June 24, 2011.
In addition Felton has signed a recording contract with indie label Six Strings. The actor's songs can be heard on his YouTube channel 'Feltbeats' (http://www.youtube.com/user/feltbeats) and are available on iTunes.


Mercury prize nominations

Dizzee Rascal heads up Mercury prize nominations

Some of this year's Mercury nominees describe what it feels like to be nominated.
Dizzee Rascal leads the nominations for this year's Mercury Prize, seven years after winning the trophy for his debut album Boy In Da Corner.
Paul Weller is also in the running alongside The XX, former nominee Laura Marling, indie band Wild Beasts and folk-rock quartet Mumford and Sons.
They are joined by Corinne Bailey Rae, Biffy Clyro, Foals, Villagers, I Am Kloot and the Kit Downes Trio.
The winner of the £20,000 prize will be announced on 7 September.
Previous winners have included Speech Debelle, Elbow, Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys.
The prize is open to UK and Irish acts who have released albums over the past year.
The XX are 5/2 favourites to win, according to Ladbrokes.
Ladbrokes spokesman, Nick Weinberg, said: "The XX look like winners in waiting. They seem to tick the right boxes and there's a growing momentum behind them."
One of the tracks from the three-piece's debut album was used by the BBC during the general election coverage.
Villagers are the 25/1 outsiders.
Jazz trio
It is the third nomination for Dizzee Rascal, who won the Mercury prize with his debut album Boy In Da Corner in 2003.
His latest nomination is for Tongue N' Cheek - he was also in the running in 2007 for Maths + English.
Weller received his first nomination in 1994 for the album Wild Wood. This time around his album Wake Up The Nation has been recognised.
Marling is nominated for a second time for her latest album I Speak Because I Can, having been shortlisted in 2008 for her debut Alas, I Cannot Swim
Bailey Rae's album The Sea deals with the sudden death of her husband two years ago.

The xx perform their song Intro on Newsnight
Its opening lines, dedicated to her late husband Jason Rae, are: "He's a real live-wire, he's the best of his kind, wait till you see those eyes".
"Making the record has meant a lot to me," she said at the nominations ceremony. "I'm really pleased."
The Kit Downes Trio are an acoustic jazz outfit who are on the list for their album Golden.
Oxford band Foals and Wild Beasts are both nominated for their second albums.
Ayrshire band Biffy Clyro are recognised for their latest offering Only Revolutions.
"That's a particularly wonderful way to start a Tuesday. What a lovely surprise!," the band posted on Twitter.
Villagers' debut album Becoming A Jackal is also included, along with Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons' - the London-based band were formed three years ago.
Manchester's I Am Kloot, who have been together for more than 10 years, are nominated for their fifth album Sky At Night. It was produced by Elbow's Guy Garvey and Craig Potter.


British parliament....says....????

British parliament protest camp removed
LONDON — Bailiffs cleared away a sprawling protest camp in front of the British parliament in a pre-dawn raid on Tuesday, although evicted demonstrators vowed to re-appear elsewhere in London.
Officials descended at 1:00 am (0000 GMT) on Parliament Square, in the heart of the city, to drag away a few dozen protesters and remove the ramshackle collection of tents, banners and straw bales used as toilets.
The protesters had been camped on the grassy square since May 1 to protest against the war in Afghanistan and a range of other issues, but a court ruled last week that their "Democracy Village" could not remain.
It took about 60 bailiffs four hours to remove the protesters after a few tied themselves to scaffolding.
Some of the protesters complained they had been roughly treated.
Activist Howard Rees, 30, said the eviction was "pretty unpleasant" and claimed the bailiffs were "pretty brutal".
"They were putting the boot into people while they were on the floor," he told AFP.
But London's Metropolitan Police said no arrests were made.
A fence was thrown up around the square, while cleaners got to work on the mess left behind by the demonstrators.
Parliament Square contains the statues of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln.
It sits amid UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the iconic Palace of Westminster parliament building, and the historic Westminster Abbey.
But London authorities said it had been turned into a squalid, nauseating eyesore by the protesters, who were stopping the general public from enjoying the square.
The activists on Friday lost an appeal against eviction in a battle with London Mayor Boris Johnson.
By the morning rush hour, at least a dozen demonstrators remained at the site.
"People from 'Democracy Village' are going to carry on with this protest. We're not going away," said Pete Phoenix, a 36-year-old protester with blond dreadlocks and sunglasses.
"Lots of areas around the city are going to be taken over in the next few days and weeks.
"Our spirit is stronger after this eviction," he told AFP, saying the camp had "raised awareness around the world" about Britain's involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Workers at the square said it would be re-turfed due to the damage caused to the grass by protesters.
The High Court in London granted eviction orders last month sought by Johnson, but their enforcement was delayed pending the outcome of the appeal.
In the appeal ruling Friday, judge David Neuberger said that although the land was owned by the Crown, the mayor of London had power to act over the square.
"We are relieved this dreadful blight of Parliament Square has finally come to an end, and look forward to it being restored to its previous condition so all Londoners can visit and enjoy it," Westminster City Council leader Colin Barrow said on Tuesday.
He said authorities "must find a way to help prevent it being hijacked by vociferous minorities whose primary intent seems to turn this World Heritage Site into a squalid campsite."
A hand-written list of items removed from the square and seen by AFP included 20 tents, 20 to 30 sleeping bags, quilts and pillows, flags, a music system, a beer barrel and, curiously, a sail boat.
The eviction does not affect veteran protester Brian Haw, who has been camped on the roadside opposite parliament since 2001.
Haw has not been glad of the company, calling the "Democracy Village" protesters "deliberately unreasonable, even depraved and outrageous".


Health chief tells of challenge facing NHS

The head of the NHS in the North-East has been appointed to oversee the Government’s radical health service reforms. Joe Willis spoke to Ian Dalton about the proposals.

THE NHS is facing one of the biggest overhauls in its 62- year history.

Under plans announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, hospitals will become more autonomous and GPs will be handed responsibility for buying services for their patients.

In addition, thousands of NHS managers could find themselves out of work as the country’s ten strategic health authorities and 152 primary care trusts are abolished.

While unions and Labour MPs have criticised the plans, Ian Dalton describes the details in the White Paper as dramatic and exciting.

The chief executive of NHS North-East has been appointed by the Department of Health as managing director of provider development.

For at least the next year, he will oversee the coalition Government’s vision for the NHS.

As well as working with acute hospitals and community- based services to implement the changes, he will help design a new healthcare regulation system.

The appointment comes after Mr Dalton was hired by the Government to co-ordinate the country’s response to the swine flu pandemic.

It is also reward for the high regard the NHS in the North- East is held.

Mr Dalton told The Northern Echo yesterday he had accepted the job because it gave him “an opportunity to make a national contribution” to the future of the NHS.

He said the new NHS would give patients more choice about where and when they had their treatment.

He said giving GPs the power to procure services would put them in the “driving seat” on behalf of the patients.

However, with many GPs expected to seek help from private health companies to buy services, critics say the NHS is facing privatisation by the back door.

In response, Mr Dalton said the changes were the next stage of the NHS’s development, and added: “I do not think the Government sees it as privatisation.”

Currently about 4,000 people work for primary care trusts and the strategic health authority in the North-East.

Opposition MPs and unions leaders are fearful of large numbers of redundancies.

Mr Dalton confirmed that the Government wanted a significant reduction in NHS management resources, but said that would mean more resources for the front line.

His appointment has also drawn criticism from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which said the NHS should not be taking on more executives with sixfigure salaries.

Mr Dalton said it was not for him to answer if he was worth the money, and added: “Like everyone who works in the NHS, I just want to do the best I can for the patients.”


David Cameron is right: The special relationship will withstand these storms

It is the politics of the kindergarten to suggest that a momentary squabble over BP or the Lockerbie bomber might destroy decades of ideological kinship between Britain and America, argues Tom Rowley.

David Cameron
David Cameron has warned Britain not to fret about the special relationship Photo: EDDIE MULHOLLAND

The couple’s relationship had soured. One was described as “frantic” to organise a reunion, desperately fighting to keep alive a flame that had long since burnt out. The other was equally keen to avoid any meeting, scurrying off embarrassedly when the pair accidently met in the kitchen. To the world they said their relationship had never been better; to their friends the cracks were all too apparent.

This was not last night’s Eastenders, but the way in which Barack Obama’s briefer than usual meeting with Gordon Brown last September was berated by the media. The “special relationship” was in mortal peril, we were told, after the President of the United States had apparently engineered to demonstrate his disapproval of Brown’s actions in a show of amateur dramatics that would have disgraced the lowliest of touring theatre companies.

That episode plastered over and, nine months on,David Cameron has flown out to meet Mr Obama for a crisis meeting amid speculation that the special relationship is at its lowest ebb yet.

As our American friends would say: get real. “Special” is not a synonym for “placid”.

For more than 60 years the UK has enjoyed a close relationship with a country that shares far more than its language. The nations are joined by an overarching worldview that can broadly be characterised as liberal, even if the British Left would despair at being grouped together with the religious reactionaries of the Tea Party movement.

But that is not to say that they have not disagreed. It is the politics of the kindergarten to suggest that a momentary squabble over a specific policy might destroy at a stroke decades of ideological kinship. Both sides know this, but find it politically useful to play up to the theatre of the bilateral meeting, by being seen to win “concessions” from the other side that are in reality piddling marginalia when compared to this broad consensus.

Indeed, the relationship was under far more pressure in the immediate post-war years - the time the press lionises as a honeymoon phase, when Winston Churchill first praised “the special relationship”. In fact, tempers were certainly tested in London when, bankrupt after six years of fighting, America called in its war loans immediately. Economist John Maynard Keynes was despatched to the US to humiliatingly beg for the loans to be extended - and returned with a long list of American demands. Today, Keynes would scarcely have got to the airport before press headlines would gleefully chronicle the strain on the special relationship.

The partnership endured similar supposed life-or-death tests during almost every post-war premiership. The toadying sycophancy towards Washigton exhibited by Tony Blair was the exception, not the rule.

Britain is manifestly not the only important strategic ally of the US, a country whose GDP is six times that of the UK and more than twice even that of its nearest rival. But America embodies a particular view of freedom - both economic and political - to which the UK largely subscribes. There will always remain scope for the two countries to work closely together in both of their interests while that consensus remains.

Cameron’s emphasis on the long-term over temporal spats should therefore be welcomed, as should his pragmatic willingness to admit to Britain’s “junior” role in this partnership.

At last we have a Prime Minister at ease with history, who understands that it is ridiculous to assert supposed equality with a country that dwarfs our resources - while underlining that being the underdog does not mean playing the poodle, as Mr Blair too frequently forgot.

So, reading coverage of Mr Cameron’s visit tonight, expect disagreements over BP and vigorous discussions about al-Megrahi’s release. Just don’t expect this to have the slightest impact on international relations - to the world stage, they are mere noises off


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