We in Westminster live in an instant world. Dramatic events surround us, often one piece of breaking news succeeds another like the waves of the sea. Digital clocks urge us to hurry. Yet time, like music, should unroll slowly. We age gradually, wrinkle by wrinkle. Our seasons are subtle, spring edges in as flowers bud and leaves uncurl. Autumn comes slowly, celebrating and mourning the advance of each year.

It provides a lesson for politics. Human problems take time to resolve. Human hearts (and minds) build trust slowly. There are few instant fixes. Patience is the mark of statesmanship.

Republished from 99 Words collected by Liz Gray, published by Darton, Longman & Todd. 99 pence from the sale of each book will go to Peace Direct. www.99words.co.uk

Shirley Williams is Former Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords.