Whether you voted Labour (and I didn't), Conservative (and I didn't) or Liberal Democrat, Labour's Attendance Allowance was a brilliant move that the Con/Lib Dem coalition has, in their own interests, preserved. The big question now is: which of them plans to boast the most about it at the next election???
Who, What, WhyThe Magazine answers the questions behind the news11:59 UK time, Friday, 04 July 2014
The Queen will smash a bottle of whisky on the hull of the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in a break from the traditional champagne. But how did champagne become the tradition, asks Lucy Townsend.
When Queen Victoria launched the HMS Royal Arthur in 1891 she smashed a bottle of champagne against it. It is believed to be one of the first instances of the drink being used in this way.
"It was a very prestigious warship with a royal name so champagne would have seemed fitting, it's a celebratory drink, but before that it had been the tradition to use [other] wine," says John Graves, curator of ship history at the National Maritime Museum.
Launching a ship has always been accompanied by ceremony. The Babylonians would sacrifice oxen, while the Vikings sacrificed a slave to propitiate their sea god.
Wine became customary in England in the 15th Century when a representative of the king would drink a goblet of wine, sprinkle wine on the deck and then throw the goblet overboard.
Champagne started being used in the late 19th Century
It was thought to be more celebratory than wine, which had been traditional previously
"It would have been much cheaper to smash a bottle," Graves adds.
"In the 18th Century the Royal Navy launched so many ships that throwing a silver goblet overboard each time would have become very expensive - so they started using bottles.
"It's quite a clear progression. The red of the wine would have looked a bit like the blood from earlier centuries, and the move to champagne would have been all about the celebration - champagne is the aristocrat of wines."
The Duchess of Cambridge watches a bottle of champagne smash against the 'Royal Princess' ship
Mrs Leif Egeland, wife of the South African High Commissioner, breaks a bottle against the Intermediate Class liner MV 'Bloemfontein Castle' at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast
This is probably not champagne
In the US, whiskey has been used in the past - the USS Princeton and the USS Raritan were launched using whiskey in the 1845 and 43.
In 1797 the captain of the frigate USS Constitution broke a bottle of madeira wine to mark her launch, while in 1862, Commodore Charles Stewart christened the New Ironsides in Philadelphia by smashing a bottle of brandy over her bow.
"During prohibition water was used in the US to launch a ship," Graves adds. "It would be water from the sea the vessel was to be launched into."
But champagne is now the drink smashed against most ships - though Graves adds that there may be a better alternative.
"I have been told by many ship builders that cheap cava creates a more spectacular display - it's much bubblier that champagne."
In the words of one Democrat after John Kerry's long-awaited speech to his party's convention: "He was good, but he's no Clinton." When it comes to public speaking, what does it take to hold a crowd?He may be an experienced and highly adept politician, but even John Kerry's supporters acknowledge their man has a notable weakness: his public persona.
With his speech to the Democratic Party's convention on Thursday Mr Kerry turned in a better performance than many had expected.
But unlike Bill Clinton, or even his running mate, John Edwards, Mr Kerry is judged not to be a natural public speaker.
Of course it's not only politicians who wrestle with this tag. A new guide in the UK exposes some of the heart-stopping clangers that have cropped up in wedding speeches. In one case a groom got his bride's name wrong while another made a business-like presentation complete with overhead projector.
But all is not lost. Here, Max Atkinson, who once trained a public speaking novice to address a political party conference - and saw his pupil receive a standing ovation - delivers the key messages.
LISTS OF THREE
Bad speeches can be disastrous for weddings
Good speeches are memorable ones, and to that end the more rhetoric, the better. A key device in lodging phrases in the minds of an audience is the "list of three", which dates back to Classical times - "veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered)". Then there was "the father, the son and the holy spirit". Later came "liberté, égalité, fraternité" followed by Abraham Lincoln's "government of the people, by the people, for the people".
More latterly, there was former Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell's "fight, fight and fight again [for the party]" and Tony Blair's "education, education, education".
Setting out a puzzle, pausing and solving it for your audience is another time-honoured technique says Mr Atkinson. For example, Ronald Reagan declared his candidacy for the American presidential election in 1980 by offering up these words: "This is a moment of quite some mixed emotions for me... I haven't been on prime-time TV for quite a while." Another memorable example is Margaret Thatcher's "You turn if you want to... the lady's not for turning."
COMBINING THE TWO
The average applause during a speech lasts about eight seconds, says Mr Atkinson. For a more rapturous reception combine these two techniques. Benjamin Disraeli carried it off well with "There are three kinds of lies... lies, damned lies and statistics, while the full Tony Blair quote actually went "ask me my three priorities... education, education, education."
A "master" of imagery in speeches, says Max Atkinson
Imagery requires the use of skilful similes. Think Denis Healey's observation that being attacked by [Tory chancellor] Geoffrey Howe was "like being savaged by a dead sheep". Or Muhammad Ali's "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Martin Luther King was the master of imagery, says Mr Atkinson, noting how his "I Have a Dream" speech started with an extended banking simile. "We have come to our nation's capital to cash a cheque" before going on to talk of the "tranquilising drug of gradualism".
Amplification and the prevalence of wireless microphones enable speakers to get away from the lectern and walk as they talk. Mr Atkinson approves, so long as the speaker's movements aren't monotonous. "Moving around helps to drain the adrenalin; stops the build up of physical tension."
The words alone are not enough. The best public speakers practise their delivery. "When I first started working with Paddy Ashdown he never practised his speeches," recalls Mr Atkinson of the former Lib Dem leader. "It never occurred to him. But I advised him and after that he would practise hard to the extent he would read his speech out to an empty conference hall the night before."Lend Me Your Ears by Max Atkinson will be published in September by Random House.