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May 2018: The Somerset Levels

The Somerset Levels are one of Britain’s less well-known jewels. Delineated by the Mendips to the north, Bridgwater Bay to the west, and the Quantocks ...More
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Charles Kennedy

When many politicians die we remember distant figures and the offices they held. With Charles Kennedy’s demise we recalled a warm and spontaneous wit, as if a decent bloke we knew down the pub had left us too young. It was indeed his love of or enslavement to alcohol that killed him, that fatal flaw making him appear all the more human. Kennedy’s leadership of the Liberal Democrats saw them in 2005 secure their highest number of MPs since 1923, in spite – or because of? – his struggles with the policy minutiae, his jovial conversational style in that role a contrast with Paddy Ashdown’s cocksure bombast before him and Ming Campbell’s zombie gravitas after. He was though not merely a joker. Far from it. When the Iraq War loomed he, almost alone of all British statesmen, pushed back against the Blair-Bush drive towards conflict, his performances in the Commons then being rare examples of meaningful debate amid planted questions and mindless careerism. Charles Kennedy has been called one of the first modern media politicians for his frequent chat-show appearances, but he was also a throwback to an age when sincere rhetoric, heart and belief were more important than being ‘on message’. For that and for much more we’ll miss him.

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I think childhood is to everyone a lost land. - Dennis Potter
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On this day:
The Hundred Years War begins - 1337, Ashmolean Museum Opens - 1683, Westminster Bridge Opens - 1862
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