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What with being the first contestant to be voted out of the Big Brother house, not to mention facing ongoing calls to be burned at the stake by the Daily Mail, it's proved a fraught few days for Speaker's wife Sally Bercow. So, amid these troubled times, what could be more welcome than the sight of her very own knight in shining armour triumphantly emerging over the horizon with the express intention of putting Sally's numerous enemies to the sword? "Pray, who could this valiant warrior be?" I hear you ask. "Why, I think it's our favourite Estonian and glamour model-botherer Lembit 'Lancelot' Opik!" Oh! comes the admittedly deflated reply. Still, it's a bank holiday and Hugh Grant didn't have the decency to return my (numerous) calls. "There's a difference between having depth and being a celebrity," declares Lembit, himself a reality television reject of note. "Sally has something to say. I supported her decision to go on the programme. My advice to Sally would now be to pursue any libel actions." Her weary other Senor Bercow would be wise to keep the impressionable Sally away from this man's mysterious charms.

Birmingham Diary: Save the bulls,whales, stags, hares, and even the foxes

There is a meeting on the fringe of the conference this morning which is fated to be sparsely attended, and not just because it is at 8am. It will be gathering of Conservatives Against Fox Hunting. Yes, that word is "against".

Sarah Sands: Threadbare is the classiest look of all

The PM's shabby socks signal his fine lineage

MPs should pay us as employees, say Parliament's revolting interns

For politically-minded graduates struggling to find their first job, a stint working for an MP has often served as a popular, if unprofitable, way to top up their CVs.

Labour to sabotage vote reform Bill in bid to subvert Coalition

Labour is drawing up plans to sabotage the Bill proposing a referendum on the voting system during its passage through the House of Lords.

Michael Brown: Coalition loyalty beats party loyalty

If the Tory-Lib Dem partnership achieves its economic objectives, it is hard to see its architects separating for the sake of an artificial general election dogfight

Leading article: There is no case for delay over electoral reform

Opponents of the referendum on electoral reform continue to clutch at straws. As Parliament broke up for the summer recess yesterday, 44 Conservative MPs signed a motion arguing that the referendum should not be held on the same day as elections next May in Scotland, Wales and in parts of England. The dissenters claim the combination could distort the result of the poll on the Alternative Vote.

Leading article: Mavericks rock the boat

This newspaper was clear what it wanted at the general election. We thought that Gordon Brown had got the central economic judgements right. We thought that there was a progressive consensus between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, not just on the economy but on many social issues and on voting reform. So we advocated tactical voting for whichever party was best placed to keep the number of Conservative seats down.

David Davis criticises 'Brokeback' coalition

David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, has described the partnership between David Cameron and Nick Clegg as the "Brokeback coalition", it was reported last night.

Tory backbenchers oppose election delay proposals

The Government faces a second Tory backbench revolt over plans to change the rules to delay a general election if the Liberal-Conservative coalition collapses.

The Sketch: Miliband turns cartoon villain as things get a bit too close for comfort

The clue was in the personnel – the judge and the members of the torture inquiry team. None are temperamentally inclined to cause trouble; all would be sympathetic to the idea that security officers do a dangerous, self-sacrificing job. In the House, only Mark Durkan declined to join in "the canonisation of the security services". David Winnick sang a line to that. But Cameron is master and commander of the security services and he is therefore in their power.

Plan to allow coalition to cling to power scrapped

Clegg confirms 5 May referendum on electoral reform

Tories quick to come out against voting reform

David Cameron and Nick Clegg were hit by a rebellion yesterday over their plan to hold a referendum on the voting system next May on the same day as elections to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh assembly and English councils.

Landlords 'considering selling up over capital gains tax hike'

A quarter of landlords claim they are considering quitting the buy-to-let sector ahead of the new Government's planned hike in capital gains tax, research showed today.

Cameron reconsiders capital gains increase to placate Tory right

The unity of the coalition Government was under strain last night after David Cameron hinted at a compromise with his Tory critics over the adoption of Liberal Democrat tax-raising plans.

First cracks in coalition as Tories query Europe and vote reform policies

A day after the love-in between David Cameron and Nick Clegg, the new coalition government came down to earth yesterday as Conservative MPs expressed doubts that the partnership would last.

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 30 January 2015
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links