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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