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

Comic Relief takes a battering from weak pound

British charities will struggle to deliver their vital overseas aid for the world's most vulnerable people this year, despite the record £58m raised by Comic Relief this weekend.

High-street heroes: Six superstyles for spring

You may not have heard ofa "hero piece" before, but you'd know one if you saw one. It's the item within a seasonal collection that makes people stop, stare, copy and covet. The "hero" is the sartorial equivalent of a good-looking boyfriend: it makes you feel good, and is made more appealing because you know everyone else wants it too. It's Kate Moss's pansy-print blouse for Topshop, which sold out the same day it hit the stores, or Roland Mouret's Galaxy dress, as seen on Posh Spice and Demi Moore. The British designer, and supplier of It-bags to the A-list, Anya Hindmarch designates one item a hero in every range she unveils.

<a href="http://blogs.independent.co.uk/openhouse/2008/10/the-vote-grab-h.html">Peter Tatchell: How the Republicans stole the 2004 election</a>

Will next week's US presidential vote be free and fair? Based on the conduct of the last election, possibly not. The 2004 election was marred by vote-fixing that would disgrace a banana republic

EU threatens Zimbabwe with further sanctions

The EU today threatened Robert Mugabe with more sanctions as fears grew for the safety of his political opponents in the run up to next week's election.

Leading article: A spiral of despair &ndash; and a ruler hellbent on destroying his country

Every time one imagines that Zimbabwe has hit rock bottom, Robert Mugabe's cruel regime manages to push the country into even greater misery. The past week has witnessed the unleashing of a campaign of violent intimidation against the political opposition. Thugs working for the ruling regime have forced thousands to flee their homes and left scores dead, including the prominent activist Tonderai Ndira.

UN chief urges Burma's junta to accept foreign aid

Three weeks after Cyclone Nargis killed at least 130,000 Burmese and left more than two million homeless, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, toured the devastated Irrawaddy delta by helicopter and urged the military regime to accept more foreign aid.

Peter Popham: Junta is acting out of self-preservation, not compassion

A grave natural disaster like the cyclone that ripped through southern Burma is a moment of reckoning for an authoritarian regime. It cannot fight the disaster as it fights the Karen rebels on the border, destroying their villages and crops, killing their animals and driving them into exile. It cannot descend as it did on the thousands of monks who demonstrated in the nation's towns and cities last September, shooting and beating and arresting them.

Burma cyclone death toll nears 4,000

Figure could reach 10,000

Donors renege on aid promises

The United States has not delivered US$5 billion worth of aid it has pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan, half of a US$10 billion shortfall from pledges made by the international community, a report released today found.

Wages row overshadows Banana Republic launch

Allegations that Banana Republic, part of the Gap chain, relies on cheap Indian labour cast a shadow over the opening of the company's first British shop.

Fashion's clean-up campaign

In the US, Banana Republic stands for affordable quality. This week's opening of its first UK store might signal the end of throwaway fashion, says Gemma Hayward

Suicide bomber kills general in Pakistan

A teenage suicide bomber has killed at least eight people in Rawalpindi, including Pakistan's surgeon general, the highest-ranking member of the country's military to be killed since Pakistan joined the so-called "war on terror".

American stores go bananas for UK despite the gloom

Banana Republic is leading a new fashion invasion from the States, in defiance of economic forecasts

Joan Smith: I am an atheist. Should I wear a big flashing sign on my forehead?

The Government has been sending warm signals to religious groups
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
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Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

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Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
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i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
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Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
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Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
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Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
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BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
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Independent Travel
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These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories