How important is it to have a dad? Last week it emerged that the Government is expected to scrap the rules which stop single mothers and lesbian couples qualifying for IVF treatment. At present, some clinics do treat these women, but they have to prove that the baby is going to be born into a "loving family".
Now, it seems, Caroline Flint, the Public Health minister, may have come to the conclusion that dads are redundant. Of course, this development will be cited by right-wing commentators and Christian groups as further evidence that civilised society is disintegrating in front of our eyes; I beg to differ.
One of the most encouraging aspects of modern life has been the swift and painless acceptance of civil partnerships, not just in our cosmopolitan cities, but all over the country. It is an anomaly, now that the law gives homosexual couples a status similar to heterosexual ones, if gay women and single women who truly want children should not be able to have them.
On the cover of last week's OK! magazine was Britain's most famous new mum, Jordan, posing with her one-year-old son, Junior. Katie Price has had two children with two fathers, but there has never been any doubt in the public's mind about who runs the household, is the main breadwinner and makes the rules.
Jordan tells us, "I am a great mum", but were we ever in any doubt? Her latest book, which she publicised by wearing white feather angel's wings (subtlety is a word unlikely to feature within its pages), is bound to go straight to the top of the best-seller list. She is also an agony aunt, and I am sure she cannot see any problems with women bringing up their children alone.
As politicians debate how to deal with anti-social behaviour, and David Cameron goes around hugging hoodies, children are in need of love and attention, not necessarily two parents. During my brief stint as a primary-school teacher, I was shocked to discover how many of my nine-year-olds went home to houses where no one chatted to each other or ate meals together. Children made their own breakfasts, dressed themselves and got themselves to school. The noisiest ones were the kids whose parents ignored them; who could blame the children for attention-seeking behaviour?
We may not be comfortable with the way Jordan parades her kids in public, dressing them up for the cameras, but I am sure they get plenty of love. If you look back through history, the idea of a family unit being two parents, mum and dad, both equally being involved in the upbringing of a family, is a fantasy dreamt up in the past century.
In times of war, from the Crusades to the battles against Napoleon, men have gone to fight and left their families for years at a time. In times of economic need, men have left their homeland, be it eastern Europe or Ireland, and crossed oceans in search of work. Women have generally been the ones who brought up children, not men, whichever way you look at it.
Dads are not redundant, but not having a dad does not mean you've missed out on anything. The problem starts with a mum who is not up to her job. Sadly, many of today's feral teenagers need one proper parent; the gender does not really matter.
Hands off my piggy bank, Prime Minister
The Government has set up a Commission to sound out reaction to its latest wheeze to access more cash. If you have money lying in the bank doing nothing for 10 or 15 years or more, it would like to be able to seize it and put it into a fund for social causes, making donations to charities doing work in the community. Now, you might wonder why it can't just cancel some of its more grandiose schemes and fund social work directly. We already pay taxes to fund running the country, so why should we forfeit any money we're not using? At the same time, Mr Blair is planning new legislation which would enable empty houses to be seized and rented out to the homeless. Again, why can't councils use compulsory purchase orders to access any empty property they own? Why bring in new bureaucratic legislation that will only require more computers and more workers to enforce - resulting in higher council tax?
Both these initiatives, while well-meaning, smack of sheer desperation. They also represent a meddling mentality, a need to pry into and hijack our personal lives. If voters want to keep cash sitting in the bank doing bugger all, then that is their prerogative, and not the business of government. First we were threatened with identity cards - luckily, it now seems as if they will be too costly to be introduced in the foreseeable future - and now we have these new "initiatives".
Sometimes I think we arein Stalinist Russia. Whatever happened to New Labour's Brave New World.
Unhappy? Get a bit of your face sliced off
Top make-up artist and cosmetics manufacturer Bobbi Brown says that she cannot understand why women have surgery to enhance their looks. She is 49 and looks great, but if a survey published last week by Mintel is to be believed, Ms Brown will soon be in a minority. It predicts that by 2009 the total number of cosmetic procedures every year in the UK will top a million - a depressing thought. The problem is that television shows such as '10 Years Younger' ruthlessly promote the idea that all you need is a new nose, chin or brow-lift and instant happiness will result. It might be a quick fix, but in the end there is only one way for skin to go - towards the floor.
Botton's up: Thinking out of the box has got him a new series
Alain de Botton, the philosopher and writer who made a television series and wrote a book called 'The Architecture of Happiness', is putting his money where his mouth is. He's become a property developer, and plans to buy a five-acre site and then hold a competition to build new houses on it. The winning scheme will have to measure up to his idea of what constitutes soul-enhancing design. Of course it's going to be another book and a telly series, and I don't expect for one moment that it's actually his money that's being risked - but if the project produces stylish and affordable homes that aren't nasty little boxes, I'll be thrilled.Reuse content