IT HAS finally happened. Happiness is a political issue. Not to be outdone by David Cameron's recent declaration that improving people's happiness is a key political challenge, Tony Blair has now commissioned a committee of high-powered and highly paid civil servants to quantify our sense of wellbeing, or SWB as we must learn to call it.
WITH very little fanfare, a consultation has begun that will be profoundly offensive to many people. The catalyst for the consultation is, naturally, our old friend the European Court of Human Rights. In 2005, the court ruled it unacceptable for the United Kingdom to ban convicted prisoners from voting, so now, at the fag-end of Blair's administration, this ban is set to be reversed.
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THE Conservative Party under David Cameron has many decisions to make, but regarding Scotland, there is one which overrides all others. Should the Scottish Tory party be dissolved?
THERE are features of modern life which, although good in themselves, are also pretty depressing.
THE story of Dr John Blair, receiving his dux medal from the High School of Dundee sixty years after it was awarded, is a splendid one. The physical medal was denied to him at the time because of a gold shortage. Nowadays, it would not have been a gold shortage that deprived him, but political correctness. A prize for the most outstanding academic in the school? Shock! Horror! That implies some kind of elitism. You can hear the call: if one is dux, all must be duces.
LADS' Mags are always with us.
ON QUESTION Time, Oliver Letwin, the head of David Cameron's policy review, stated that the main trouble for the Liberal Democrats lay not so much with their own boss but with his. Young Dave seems more attractive than old Ming. If the May local election results in England and Wales are anything to go by, this is true. The Tories ended the night up by 316 councillors and eleven councils. The Lib Dems gained two councillors but, amid other things, lost iconic Islington.
AFTER football, the British love nothing better than to talk about class.
IT WOULD be no exaggeration to say I owe almost everything to Glasgow University, where I went as a mature student, graduating in 1997. It saved me from death by domesticity. I owe a particular debt to its medieval history department, filled with academics with such a passion for their subjects that I became severely infected too.
I HAVE absolutely no interest whatsoever in football.
IN DEBATING the hot topic of the moment, the McCartney divorce, it is easy to get focused on the money. But let's us not forget that there is a child involved too - poor little Beatrice Milly. At least she will have plenty of help from other famous divorcee siblings - all those Jaggers, Geldofs, golfers and royals. They could form a club.
SOMETIMES people tell you things so astounding they take you a moment to understand.
IT HAS been a fascinating time to travel round the United States, where I have been on a 12-day book tour beginning in New York and taking in Austin, Houston, Milwaukee and a grand finale in Chicago. New York, Texas, Wisconsin and Illinois show a good cross-section of diverse America. By chance, I was there at the height of the controversy over the singing of the national anthem in Spanish and on the street in Chicago during the great march by illegal immigrants.
IT SEEMS odd to me that in all the recent fuss over suitable role models for girls, with the Girl Guides signing up the "right" kind of celebrity, one role model is never cited: the Queen.
PLAIN speaking was put to the test in the Spectator this week when various luminaries - politicians, clerics, media monkeys, scientists and even Sir Cliff Richard - were asked, point blank: "Do you believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead?".
THERE are few things that get people as agitated as faith schools, and it is easy to see why. Anything smelling of exclusivity is taken, by definition, to be divisive. If your school rigorously upholds one set of religious beliefs then it must be against all others. In other words, if you see faith schools as medieval castles - closed, heavily fortified and defensive - it seems clear that they should be abolished.
IN GLASGOW last week, and later in Edinburgh and Dundee, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge held conferences designed to encourage entries from students in their Higher and Advanced Higher years.
WHY do women, particularly mothers, work? This may seem an odd question in 2006 but given the havoc work wreaks in family life, and when we learn that we work for the Chancellor until 3 June each year, it is a question of increasing rather than decreasing relevance. If the financial rewards of working are shrinking and the inconvenience and expenses (commuting or childcare or both) are rising, when, for women, does working succumb to the law of diminishing returns?
LAST week, in a moment of extreme insomniac distress (all suggestions for alleviation welcome), I bought an iPod.
WE LIVE in times of mammoth contradiction.