News Lynton Crosby has told ministers to stop announcing minor policies which distract from the party's core messages

Government departments have effectively been banned from promoting initiatives that are not central to the party’s key election themes of crime, the economy, immigration and welfare

£2m of aid money was used to fund Pope's visit

Nearly £2 million intended to be spent helping development in the world's poorest countries was diverted to pay for the Pope's visit to Britain. The Department for International Development gave £1.85m to the Foreign Office to help to pay for the costs of Pope Benedict's visit to England and Scotland last September.

Leading article: A broken nation's toxic import

The last thing Haiti needs right now is the return of Baby Doc, the former dictator whose rule in the Seventies and Eighties is remembered for its corruption and the brutality of his private militia, the Tonton Macouts. The people of the island, and the foreign diplomatic community, have been stunned by the unexpected return of the former playboy-despot Jean-Claude Duvalier to his Caribbean homeland for the first time since he was deposed in a coup in 1986.

Charity donations still suffering from recession

Donations to charity increased last year but still remain well below their pre-recession levels, research showed today.

Treasury urged to loosen politically driven 'ring-fenced' spending plans

Excessive, politically driven "ring-fencing" distorts government spending priorities, according to a report on the Comprehensive Spending Review published by the Treasury Committee today.

Meet the godfather of the cuts

Canada's Paul Martin eradicated his country's deficit by harsh reductions in public spending. Matt Chorley meets the coalition's inspiration

Thousands made homeless by flooding in Benin

Hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless by flooding which hit West Africa during its annual rainy season.

Banana Republic bends Britain to its will

The high street may be a gloomy place right now, but Banana Republic is well-placed to expand. James Thompson reports

International Development: Anger as aid is linked to security

The overseas aid budget has been protected and will rise to £11.5bn by 2015. This will enable the UK to reach the UN's target of member states donating 0.7 per cent of national income in aid by 2013.

BBC warns Government over free licence fee funding

The BBC Trust warned the Government today it would fight any move to force it to meet the cost of free television licences for the over-75s.

Jimmy Carter taken to hospital

Jimmy Carter, the former US president, was taken to hospital in Ohio yesterday after becoming ill while flying there, according to media reports. Mr Carter, 85, who served as president from 1977 to 1981, was on his way to Cleveland for a book-signing event.

Coalition plans to link oveseas aid to security

Part of Britain's £6bn overseas aid budget could be switched to defence and anti-terrorism projects, according to a leaked government document.

Debts pushing Pakistan to the brink of ruin

The flooding crisis has weakened an economy already struggling to cope with its heavy financial burden. Omar Waraich reports from Islamabad

Government 'still has much to do' after first three months

The taxpayers' verdict on the first three months of the Government shows there is still "a lot to be done", campaigners said today.

High-street heroes: The best affordable buys for autumn

This autumn brings new shapes and a sleek, grown-up silhouette, but there's no need to spend a fortune to get the look. Harriet Walker picks the best affordable buys
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker