Former staff of a development quango were sent for patchwork, pottery and jewellery-making lessons at taxpayers’ expense, an investigation has found.

A warming winter mixture

Shopping list

Something is stirring in the drinks cabinet

Forget straight gin-and-tonic; the Martini is in, and being quaffed in smart bars across Britain and the States. Even "three-Martini-lunches" are enjoying a revival. But sloshing together a sophisticated cocktail in a simple jug doesn't have the same eclat as creating one using authentic accessories. To create the mood, we offer a selection of equipment for the home bar, from cheap and cheery novelties to refined bar-top paraphernalia. Then rent a copy of Cocktail and model your mixing on Tom Cruise's technique.

Every wardrobe in the land contains a lesson in humility

Serena Mackesy casts a shop-worn eye over a seasonal obsession

MP accuses Blair staffer of dirty tricks

A member of Tony Blair's staff has been accused of assisting in a "poisonous" dirty-ricks operation against a Labour MP. The charge was made by Brian Sedgemore, MP for Hackney south and Shoreditch, falsely identified by a member of the Blair press team as "Cassandra", who attacked Mr Blair in the left-wing Tribune.

I defy you not to buy anything

Sitting in her design oasis, safely sectioned off from the peeling white brick walls of the Freemans mail order building where she is based, Polly Dickens throws down the gauntlet. "I defy anyone to go into The Source and not to buy anything."

Shopocalypse now

Superstores have developed sophisticated tactics to turn 'grazers' into spenders. Serena Mackesy scents a conspiracy in the mall

Virginia boasts of her selfless availability

The standards of the parties have been raised, and over the months ahead the country will resound to the clash of steel, the whirr of cannon- balls and the cries of civil strife. On the right (by their own accounts) is the party of Merrie England, of tradition, fun and laughter. Opposing them from the left, are the forces of Puritanism, of clean thought and of reform.

Lakeside takes the credit

One of the UK's biggest shopping centres, Lakeside, announced yesterday that it is to become the first to launch its own credit card.

The Investment Column: Retail revival boosts CSC

A bullish results statement from Capital Shopping Centres, the leading retail property landlord, underlines two trends in UK retailing. The first is that consumer spending is rising strongly, with sales in some of CSC's centres 14 per cent ahead of the same period last year. The second is that, try as the Government might to clamp down on large out-of-town shopping developments, the public still likes shopping in them.

Morgan leaps to top of the class

Simon Turnbull attends the nurturing school of Britain's finest athletic talents

Pressure grows to hold shadow cabinet election

Labour pains: MPs cynical about moves that would safeguard future of Harriet Harman

Too much for a lady in super-Poppins mode

Sharply dressed know-all makes Virginia an offer to refuse

Lingerie firm takes on M&S

THE Alternative Investment Market is set to gain its first national retailer, in the shape of lingerie and nightwear specialist La Senza.

THE INVESTMENT COLUMN : Quality pays for Capital Shopping

Capital Shopping Centres, the property group ultimately owned by Liberty Life of South Africa, has proved a bumpy ride for investors. The flotation nearly two years ago was marred by concerns that it was over-priced and at the small number of shares being sold. As a result, the shares have only recently broken through the 230p placing price.

'Negligence' led to decapitation

A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor