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Councils told by Government to do 'more with less'

Local councils must continue to provide "reasonable" services to the public despite swingeing cuts in central government funding, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles warned today.

Diary: Mandy out of step with Beeb

Waltzing Peter Mandelson, seen here strutting his stuff at Blackpool's Tower Ballroom, will not be appearing on his beloved Strictly Come Dancing, but controversy still rages as to who snubbed whom: Mandy or the BBC. The former First Secretary suggested stroppily to Total Politics magazine that no invitation to strut his stuff had been forthcoming: "They had their opportunity [to ask me]," he said, "and now they can get lost." Yet the Corporation's head of comms for Entertainment insists that, on the contrary, Mandelson declined an offer to take part – unlike cross-party fox-trotters Ann Widdecombe and Vince Cable, who is due to feature in a Christmas special. Well, it is two years since Mandy first expressed his interest in the show; perhaps the Beeb just played too hard to get.

Job losses caught on camera

Gaffe that gave the game away

Alan Johnson named as shadow chancellor

Alan Johnson was appointed to the key role of shadow chancellor in Ed Miliband's first shadow cabinet today.

Yvette Cooper tops the list of Labour MPs in vote for Shadow Cabinet

Yvette Cooper topped the poll last night as Labour MPs elected the "new generation" of senior frontbenchers who will serve under the party's new leader, Ed Miliband.

Joan Smith: Don't listen to the carping comments. The best man won

For the past couple of years, I've been telling anyone who would listen that the next leader of the Labour Party would be Ed Miliband. He's clever, warm and very modern, a fact that's sent much of the media into a state of comic incomprehension since his surprise victory over his elder brother last weekend. Who is this guy? Why isn't he married? Is he really an atheist? Ed hasn't been in frontline politics as long as David Miliband, which accounts for some of the bewilderment. But he's stood up to a bruising first week – everything from an invitation to propose to his partner on live TV to accusations of political fratricide – in a way that speaks volumes about his confidence and sense of purpose.

49 MPs join race for frontbench role

The battle for jobs in Ed Miliband's top team was joined in earnest tonight with 49 Labour MPs putting themselves forward.

Women could make up half of new Shadow Cabinet

Women are set to make up almost half of Ed Miliband's top team after he privately urged MPs to elect large numbers of female candidates to his Shadow Cabinet.

Family tensions set to continue as Mr and Mrs Balls vie for jobs

The scramble for a place in Ed Miliband's shadow Cabinet officially began yesterday, bringing with it the prospect of another tense family contest at the top of the Labour Party.

Snap! Why public figures are continually getting caught out by Steve Back

Mark Thompson is latest victim of scourge of Downing Street

Flint blames Brown for lack of women on leadership list

When Caroline Flint stormed out of Gordon Brown's Government last summer, complaining he used women colleagues as "female window dressing", her dramatic departure seemed to do more damage to her than it did to the former prime minister.

The Sketch: Oiling the wheels of our select committees

The Speaker had them all in fits with his intro. He had to slow down and pad out what he was saying with extra long words in order to finish speaking dead on the chime of Big Ben. It was Just A Minute with Nicholas Parsons, the place was roaring with laughter: good old John, no repetition or deviation from him!

Brilliant new women are Labour's USP

Joan Smith salutes Harriet Harman for wrongfooting the PM

Ed Miliband supports 50% female team

Ed Miliband has strengthened his pledge to promote women to senior political jobs by supporting a plan to ensure half of the party’s new shadow Cabinet team is female.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture