For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Out With The Old

As Tony Blair makes way for Gordon Brown today, it got me thinking how many of our MPs are genuine hill-goers and wilderness walkers. I couldn't think of many. But three names came to mind: first, the late John Smith, leader of the Labour Party from July 1992 to May 1994, who took up Munro-bagging after a coronary in October 1988. By the time of his fatal second heart attack he'd climbed 108 Munros. Then there's the late Robin Cook, who never really fit into the Blair spinning machine and resigned from the Cabinet over the Iraq war debacle - and who also died of a heart attack, descending from Ben Stack in Sutherland in August 2005. Finally there's the most dedicated hill walker of them all - Chris Smith, now Lord Smith of Finsbury, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and current President of the Ramblers' Association, who was the first MP to climb all the Munros. He's also completed the Pennine Way and walked abroad extensively. Apparently his favourite walk is the circuit of Beinn Alligin. Somehow this all seems a bit more authentic than fox-hunting-friendly David Cameron's self-conscious posturing and image-making when you see him cycling home to his so-called "eco-friendly" house. Perhaps he should escape the suffocating corridors of Westminster for a while and spend a long weekend back in Scotland with tent and backpack - and experience the true meaning of wilderness (instead of the wilderness that is the Conservative Party?) and the importance of preserving it. And, for the sake of balance, Gordon Brown too, for that matter...

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