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.

The Sketch: The House gets tough on journalists &ndash; and calls them to the bar

Sometimes Parliament – "this sacred place" as Tom Watson called it – looks less than transcendental. In yesterday's emergency debate, for instance, it looked like a turtle on its back flapping its fins.

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The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003