Richard Layard, the founder of the LSE Centre for Economic Performance, is a brave man. The Labour peer and adviser to the government has written a book on happiness. Or to be more precise, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science. This is big stuff. I mean, happiness is the whole point of life, right? Philosophers since Aristotle have been trying to puzzle it out. And then this geezer with no philosophical training claims to have knocked out a tome containing all the answers.
With his bald pate, droopy moustache and sad, bleary eyes, Walid Jumblatt looks more circus clown than Pentagon pin-up. And if the warlord’s eccentric appearance were not enough to dismay White House officials, then his penchant for virulent leftist anti-Americanism would seem to place him firmly in their ‘against us’ category.
As Lebanon’s Soviet-backed chieftain of the Druze, a secretive sect which broke away from Shia Islam in the 11th century and believes in reincarnation, Jumblatt, now 55, played an active role in the country’s blood-soaked civil war.
On Tuesday, half a million people were demonstrating in the streets of Beirut, chanting and waving flags. If you only gave the TV a quick glance, you probably assumed that they were protesting against the Syrian presence in Lebanon. In fact it was a rally organised by Hezbollah in support of Syria, but for almost a month now — since the assassination of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri — the newspapers have been full of Beirut rising up in outrage against occupation, men and women in the streets dressed in red and white, shouting, ‘Syria Out!’: the Cedar Revolution.