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We’ve all been there, wading through the endless phone menus, queues and scripted conversations

Diary: Hannah makes a splash

Daryl Hannah was arrested in DC this week at a rally against a proposed oil pipeline. Yet despite her history of campaigning for trees, air and fluffy animals, Hannah didn't always live up to her own high standards. While dating JFK Jr, she enjoyed heli-skiing: skiing on slopes accessible only by helicopter. The practice is banned in some countries due to complaints about its carbon footprint, noise pollution and disruption of wilderness areas. One practitioner tells me she accompanied the Kennedy party to the Canadian Rockies in the 1990s, even sharing a bathroom with Hannah and "her mountainous wash-kit". The actress, says my source, often returned to the lodge early as she was tired, forcing the chopper to make two fuel-guzzling round trips: "She was in Splash, so the guys would snigger about meeting the mermaid in the jacuzzi." Jacuzzis are deeply eco-unfriendly, though it's unclear whether Hannah joined the lads for a soak.

Another minister snapped in No 10 document trap

Papers make explicit the delight of government at the impending departure of Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Miliband wins power to select Shadow Cabinet

Ed Miliband won the first round of his battle to modernise Labour's traditional practices last night when the party's MPs voted overwhelmingly to allow him to choose his own Shadow Cabinet.

Shadow play: Who's that Labour frontbencher?

The public is struggling to recognise the Opposition's big beasts

Ed Miliband moves to abolish party elections for Shadow Cabinet

Ed Miliband is to move to get rid of underperforming members of his Shadow Cabinet by asking the Labour MPs to revoke their historic power to elect the party's top team.

David Miliband denies leadership plot

David Miliband was forced to deny plotting against his brother today amid claims of an ongoing feud over the Labour leadership.

Nick Clegg slams anti-AV 'falsehoods'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg hit out today at "distractions and falsehoods" being used by campaigners against a change in the electoral system.

AV poll 'not a referendum on Nick Clegg'

Ed Miliband today urged people not to make the forthcoming referendum on voting reform for Westminster elections a referendum on Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Shadow Cabinet revolt as Miliband launches AV bid

Ed Miliband has been hit by a growing Labour revolt against his support for a change in the voting system as more than 200 Labour MPs and peers back the existing first-past-the-post process.

Diary: Flint's friends a fickle bunch

It gives me no pleasure to admit that Labour frontbencher Caroline Flint rather burned bridges when she made a point of not thanking me for highlighting the news she was among the leading contenders for 2011's Rear of the Year award. For those of you who don't keep up with current affairs in the way you should, I reported back in January that Caroline was among the early frontrunners for this year's "prestigious" gong, due to be handed out to the lucky winner at The Dorchester hotel this June. Supporters who had helpfully nominated the Shadow Communities Secretary pointed out at the time that Ms Flint would join an esteemed list including Babs Windsor and Graham Norton, should she emerge victorious. Alas, awards organiser Tony Edwards now informs me: "The nominations for Caroline seemed to peak quite quickly, confirming my suspicion they originated from Commons-based computers. Much the same happened last year with Harriet Harman – basically a flurry of voting activity, then nothing." Fickle, fickle world.

Cuts threaten 2,000 Manchester council jobs

One of the country's biggest local authorities warned today of 2,000 redundancies, sparking threats of industrial action and taking the council jobs cull caused by the Government's spending cuts to almost 114,000.

'114 Labour MPs oppose voting change'

Campaigners against a change in the Westminster voting system claimed the support of 114 Labour MPs today in their bid to secure a "no" vote in next May's referendum.

Poor areas hit hardest in cuts to council funds

The biggest cuts to police and local councils "in living memory" were yesterday unveiled by ministers with some parts of the country losing almost 10 per cent of their budget in a single year.

Local councils 'face average 4.4% cut'

Town halls in England will face no more than an 8.9% reduction in their spending power next year, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said today

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
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Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
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How did our legends really begin?

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Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

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