7 Days

Crime alarm Labour election promises have been bruised by the first increase in reported crime for six years. Cases of fraud and forgery have risen by 29 per cent, violent crime by 5 per cent, robbery by 19 per cent and sexual crime by 2 per cent. The rise was blamed on the booming economy, which stuffs houses with consumables that tempt the growing number of men in the main offending age group, 17-24.

Smacking to stay Hitting children with implements will be made illegal after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that British law failed to protect children in the home. It is thought one child dies a week in UK following injuries from assault by an adult. However, the government does not propose to ban smacking by hand, except on the head, despite the pleas of 260 organisations campaigning to reverse this decision.

Optical vision With a minute television camera strapped to his eye, a computer on his hip and 68 electrodes planted in his brain, sight has been restored to a blind man. Dr William Dobelle, the man responsible for the treatment, says his patient now has the same vision as a severely short-sighted person; apparently sufficient to get him around New York.

Back to school David Blunkett is to pioneer state-funded education for the elderly in order to cushion them against the culture shock of retirement. Residential training courses, similar to American-style summer camps, will teach the elderly new skills. The plan is part of the government's mission to give pensioners a valued role in society, rather than just a free TV licence.

RUC reform The Royal is to be knocked out of the Ulster Constabulary and the force to be renamed the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The harp and crown insignia will be kept, although modified. The move, likely to become law by October, is part of wider restructuring, designed to reassure nationalists, encourage IRA decommissioning and placate unionists.

This article first appeared in the 24 January 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - The tyranny of the brands