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

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
Prices correct as of 20 February 2015
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Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

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Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

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Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

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This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

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'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

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Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

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A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower