7 Days

Poverty pledge The Secretary of State for Social Affairs, Alistair Darling, has pledged to lift 1.25 million people out of poverty by the next general election. The minister denied claims that the Labour Party is interested only in "wooing Middle England" and said: "By running the economy well you can do more for those in need."

Left standing The Bulgarian government was left red-faced after two failed attempts to demolish the tomb of the country's first communist leader, Georgi Dimitrov. Members of the Socialist Party cried, "We will not be destroyed!" as over 1,000 tonnes of explosives failed to shift the white marble structure.

Asylum upsurge Applications for asylum will rise by 50 per cent to a record 68,000 this year, according to figures released by the Immigration Service Union. This has prompted criticisms by the shadow home secretary, Ann Widdecombe, that Britain is becoming a "soft touch". Labour has denied these claims, blaming the situation on the "absolute shambles that the last government created".

Cricket's calamity English cricket is now officially the worst in the world, following England's catastrophic defeat in the final Test. Now at the bottom of the world rankings, England replace New Zealand - the team that took just nine minutes to annihilate the last three English wickets.

Rain of desolation In the wake of last week's earthquake in north-west Turkey, estimated to have killed up to 40,000 people, torrential rain threatens to add to the devastation of the region. Damaged drains, leading to pools of stinking mud, have sparked fears of a cholera epidemic.

Peerage polemics Ninety-two hereditary peers will be allowed to keep their seats in the House of Lords. The basis for selection has now been unveiled: a "cornflake packet competition" in which the perturbed peers must justify their eligibility to stay on in fewer than 75 words.

This article first appeared in the 30 August 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Gordon Brown, the great feminist