News Over 200,000 people have contacted their council for help following the last cut to benefits, however councils cannot keep up with the demand

Authorities had been forced to dip into funds allocated to other services to cope with the surge in numbers of households appealing for help

Cinderella, King's Head, Islington, London<br/>Mozart Unwrapped, Kings Place, London

Rossini's panto-opera froths like a good pint, but Mozart is positively overflowing in 2011

Diary: They should move 'Extra' Pickles to the MoD

Communities Secretary Eric "Extra" Pickles has doubtless been described as Churchillian before now, for his considerable size if not his statesmanship. Yet even the great former Prime Minister would be impressed by the number of wars his Conservative descendant has declared, fought and/or finished. Yesterday, Extra called a ceasefire in what he described as "Whitehall's War on the Motorist". In December, he hailed the end of the non-existent "War on Christmas" (his words). He even produced a series of YouTube clips during the general election entitled "Eric Pickles' War Room briefings". Meanwhile, the media has accused Extra of "declaring war" on – among other things – town halls, "street clutter", "council non-jobs" and "bossy bollards". Two questions: should Extra be moved to the MoD (with all that military experience, he's clearly wasted at DCLG)? And could we declare war on the use of "war on ... "?

Video: 'Hancock was always too soft on Russia' says MP

Labour MP Chris Bryant says Liberal Democrat member Mike Hancock was always too soft on Russia following allegations that he employed a suspected Russian spy, Katia Zatuliveter, as his aide.

Ex-minister: Was US misled on cluster munitions?

The US may have been "led up the garden path" by Britain over a secret deal to allow them to get round a ban on cluster munitions, a former foreign office minister said today.

Parliament will not act on phone hacking

MPs were warned yesterday it would be difficult for Parliament to take action over the alleged hacking of their mobile phones by the News of the World.

Coulson 'has thrown his former staff to the wolves'

Andy Coulson was last night accused of throwing his former staff "to the wolves", after it emerged that the Downing Street spin doctor had spoken to police investigating allegations of illegal phone-hacking while he was editor of News of the World.

John Rentoul: Ed is making it easy to be a Tory

Labour was leaderless all summer long. Miliband seems to think that it should stay that way

David Cameron stands by 'fair' housing benefit cap

David Cameron dismissed talk of a climbdown over capping housing benefit today despite claims that the policy could drive 200,000 poor people out of major cities.

Government says housing benefit cap will go ahead

The Government today dismissed talk of a climbdown over capping housing benefit today despite warnings that the policy will "cleanse" poor people from major cities.

London 'will be as segregated as Paris' after cuts

Nick Clegg reacted with fury yesterday to accusations that ministers were "sociologically cleansing" the poor out of parts of London with planned cuts to housing benefit payments.

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.

Diary: Burley hits below the belt

Good to hear that the Sky News anchor Kay "Hurly" Burley wasn't overly traumatised by her on-air altercation with the Labour MP Chris Bryant. When you've had dust-ups with photographers, or listened to protesters yelling for you to be sacked on live television, being called "a bit dim" must seem a trifling matter. Ms Burley, 49, was out in support of her fellow Murdoch employees (naturally) on Wednesday evening, at the launch of The Sun's new television magazine, Buzz. "I was just at a party with Chris Bryant, actually," she told me. "I told him I didn't recognise him with his clothes on." She was referring, I must assume, to Bryant's Y-front moment in 2003, when the honourable member for Rhondda apologised after posting a picture of himself in his underpants on a dating website. Somewhat below the belt of Ms Burley to bring it up, you might think, but hardly uncharacteristic. Burley is, after all, the relentless interrogator who made Peter Andre cry.

Action launched over News of the World hacking row

The shadow Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant and former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick officially issued judicial review proceedings over the newspaper phone-hacking row yesterday.

Matthew Norman's Diary: Murdoch inquiry could clinch Labour leadership for David Miliband

With a YouGov poll showing the Milibandroid race too close to call and the odds shortening against Forrest Gump, as Little Ed is now known by David's campaign, we are reminded that with elections you never know what you're gonna get.

Chris Bryant MP: My on-air spat with Sky News's Kay Burley

When I agreed to go on Sky News yesterday afternoon I did not even know who I would be speaking with, let alone that just minutes afterwards the clip would be posted on YouTube, shared on Twitter and I would be flooded with emails and text messages.

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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
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The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution