Bethany Doughty worked as an actuary for 10 years before deciding to retrain as a maths teacher. It has proved to be a lifechanging move, for all the right reasons…

Catherine MacLeod: A good 'spad' is trusted by the minister – and speaks for him

Being a special adviser at the heart of the Government is necessarily a privileged but hugely sensitive role. When Alistair Darling, then the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, asked me to be his special adviser in the Treasury in 2007 I had little idea of what was expected. There was no job description. It was a case of feeling my way, finding a modus operandi best suited to looking after his interests.

Leading article: A shameful tax avoidance culture

It was bad enough when it was only Ed Lester, the head of the Student Loans Company, who was enjoying lower taxes thanks to his being paid as a private contractor rather than a government employee. The implications grew darker when the Department of Health was forced to admit that two dozen of its senior staff were also pulling the same stunt. Only now, after a much-needed Whitehall-wide review, is the full extent of the rot revealed – and it should make both the non-mandarins themselves, and those who waved through their advantageous arrangements, blush with shame.

NHS workers reject pension reforms

Government hopes of resolving the bitter public sector pensions dispute were dealt a fresh blow today when a group of health workers rejected the controversial reforms.

Leading article: Lessons still to be learnt from grammar schools

Last week, it was the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.

John Rentoul: As Hilton heads off, Cameron Mark II begins

Dave prefers George's 'cold calculation' to Steve's 'idealism'
The Immigration minister, Damian Green, said BAA and the Border Force had to work better together

Visa scheme led to mass illegal migrant influx

Immigration chiefs were accused yesterday by MPs of presiding over "complete chaos" when the bungled introduction of a new student visa regime led to an influx of migrants to Britain to work illegally.

John Rentoul: Osborne is not Brown, but the faultline is showing

The Chancellor is the pole around which disaffection organises itself

An absolute shower: Prince Charles fulfils a lifelong ambition

Philip Hensher: It's tough to sack a civil servant (I should know)

The number of civil servants has, interestingly, dropped very substantially under the Coalition. Whether as a result of redefinition or of stripping down, the numbers have fallen since the Brownite high point, from over half a million to a mere 434,000.

Francis Maude: Weed out poor civil servants

A senior minister says Whitehall managers must step up efforts to identify and dismiss poorly-performing civil servants.

Prison staff take part in a protest outside HMP Manchester, as public sector workers go on strike in a row over pensions

Union leaders threaten more public sector strikes

Union leaders today warned that Britain could face a year of strikes by public sector workers if the increasingly bitter row over pensions  is not resolved.

Government 'destroying communities' say union leaders

The Government was attacked today for "destroying" communities with its spending cuts and other policies as thousands of trade unionists, pensioners, students and activists took part in the annual May Day celebrations.

Never knowingly undersold: Lord Hutton to chair coalition's first John Lewis-style spin-off

The former Cabinet minister Lord Hutton will this week be named as chairman of the first company to be spun out of Whitehall as part of the Government's vision to create a "John Lewis economy" of employee-owned businesses.

MoD civilian workers join pensions strike

Thousands of civilian workers in the Ministry of Defence and staff in other Government departments are to join another national strike next month in the long-running row over public sector pensions.

Frontline immigration staff becoming 'box-tickers'

Frontline immigration staff are becoming little more than “box-tickers and rules followers” as a result of the Government's passport-checking policy, according to the former head of the UK Border Force.

Siobhan Benita: 'I can feel from the attention that we're getting that people are really behind us'

Mayoral candidate has no profile, but ambition to spare

Siobhan Benita could surprise a few people. By Oliver Wright

One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballLive! Sanchez makes up for penalty miss to put Arsenal ahead
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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
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

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
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all