CONSERVATIVES can send only one official observer to the Labour Party conference, which is a shame because a few days in the febrile, fratricidal atmosphere in Manchester would have been a tonic to Tory spirits.
TONY Blair has Westminster on tenterhooks. After spending three weeks staring into the ocean, what verdict did he reach about his future? Will he give a date for his departure or stay on and fight? He is due to give a string of speeches in London over the next fortnight, so will this be his "my way" moment, singing himself off stage? Or will he press on, betting - as he has done so many times in the past - that Gordon Brown lacks the courage and resolve to stand in his way?
More top stories
WHEN David Cameron is accused of alienating traditional Conservative voters with his tree-planting, hoodie-hugging and Israel-bashing, he has an easy riposte. Where are all these frustrated souls going to go? Defect to the high-taxing Liberal Democrats? Sign up to Gordon Brown's progressive consensus? Mr Cameron can reach out to the left as much as he likes if he has his party membership cornered. And this is why the UK Independence Party leadership contest is so potentially important.
SOME people find it impossible to take a holiday. It's not yet been three weeks since the House of Commons broke up for the Commons recess, yet a petition is already circling with 170 signatures from MPs demanding Parliament reconvenes so they can discuss and pontificate on world events. If there is to be a peace settlement between Israel and Hezbollah, then apparently it cannot be done without Westminster's finest having their say.
RUSH hour in Kabul is best avoided. The booming Afghan economy has packed the road with cars. But it has also made the streets safe enough to walk and created an environment where émigrés return home to set up business. It is a model of what Iraq should have been like, and the difference can be explained simply: in Afghanistan, we are learning from the occupation, while in Iraq we are not.
ARIEL Sharon is not yet dead. The former prime minister of Israel lies in a military hospital outside Tel Aviv, having not woken from the coma he fell into six months ago. An international day of prayer was called for him last month, but never has he been more sorely missed than today. It is precisely the absence of the "Butcher of Beirut" that has placed the Middle East on the precipice of a new war.
PITY George Bridges. He has had a successful and varied career, is in good health, is well liked by his peers and grudgingly respected by his enemies. But whatever good fortune has visited him so far will soon be replaced by the thankless misery his new job will bring. He just has been appointed the Conservative campaign director for Scotland and north England.
NEVER will insults have sounded sweeter to a politician's ears. Gordon Brown would have welcomed every brickbat thrown at him last Wednesday night after he declared to a businessmen's dinner that he favours keeping Britain's nuclear weapons. The CND denounced him as a hypocrite, Clare Short declared herself his sworn enemy and other left-wing Labour MPs declared him a capitalist brute. There could be no better character reference for a Chancellor who is about to sell himself to Middle England.
ALEX SALMOND was right after all. Almost a decade ago, the Scottish National Party leader predicted that the Union would not live to see its 300th birthday. Today, he will be vindicated when Catalonia votes to end its 295-year union with Spain and become technically recognised as a "nation" - albeit one which is not quite independent. We have a new potential entrant to the Eurovision song contest.
THERE are many reasons to celebrate the death, or as George W Bush put it the "delivery of justice" to, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. His atrocities stretch from the 1995 Amman hotel bomb through to the wave of killings in Iraq in the last year. Assassin, murderer, terrorist, warmonger - he was all of those things. But he was neither the face of, nor the force behind, the insurgency in Iraq.
NOT since William Hague claimed to have drunk 14 pints of beer in a day has a politician made a more laughable claim. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, last week told New Woman magazine that he starts his day by switching on his iPod and listening to indie rock band the Arctic Monkeys. "They really get you up in the morning," the 55-year-old explained.
NEWS of Eric Forth's death spread within minutes around Westminster last Thursday, with bewilderment legible on the faces of those who had just heard. It was a shock. Just a week ago last Friday he was diagnosed with bone cancer: five days later he was dead, aged 61.
THE implosion of New Labour would be spectacular enough on its own. A party built on discipline is succumbing to internal warfare, neither Gordon Brown nor Tony Blair will budge and their low-level feuding will dominate coming months.
AS POLITICAL assassination was taking place in 10 Downing Street last Friday, something just as significant was happening in a grim, concrete-lined street half a mile away. Above a branch of Starbucks, Tories were celebrating.
THE acronym for Mutually Assured Destruction - the nuclear deterrent policy which won the Cold War - said it all. It is hard, now, to imagine that the palpable prospect of a nuclear strike hung over Britain for so many decades.
THERE is one simple reason why the Group of Eight richest nations, which concluded its meeting on Saturday, has become an anachronistic talking shop: China, the world's fastest growing major economy, is not a member.
TWENTY years ago, a discovery was made which changed the way America looked at poverty. An academic hired to monitor government benefit schemes proved a theory which sounded incredible: welfare was making poverty worse.
GEORGE Bush is not yet halfway through his second presidential term, but power is visibly draining from the White House. Republicans who were once his cheerleaders now barely mention his name: elections are coming, and it is time for them to ditch the president.
POLITICS need not wait for politicians. While Tony Blair was rubbing noses with Maoris last week and David Cameron was taking his gospel to the West Midlands, the agenda moved on in a way which is leaving both of them behind.
WHEN car companies like MG Rover face financial peril, our politicians are unanimous in saying they should collapse. The market, they opine, has delivered its verdict. But when their own bank accounts run empty, they want to be nationalised.