News Lynton Crosby has told ministers to stop announcing minor policies which distract from the party's core messages

Government departments have effectively been banned from promoting initiatives that are not central to the party’s key election themes of crime, the economy, immigration and welfare

Cameron defends arms sales in push for growth

David Cameron declared yesterday that enterprise was morally right and defended his controversial campaign to sell British-made arms to regimes around the world with poor records on democracy and human rights.

Minister denies international aid priority claims

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has rejected claims that the Government is putting Britain's security concerns ahead of aid priorities by trimming the number of countries which will receive assistance from the UK.

16 countries to lose cash from Britain

Sixteen countries including Angola, Kosovo, Bosnia and Vietnam are to lose British aid, Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, will announce tomorrow.

Burma benefits as UK targets aid money on fight for democracy

British aid to Burma – the poorest country in South-east Asia – is to be sharply increased in an effort to help the country's most beleaguered and to support the struggle for democracy.

£2m of aid money was used to fund Pope's visit

Nearly £2 million intended to be spent helping development in the world's poorest countries was diverted to pay for the Pope's visit to Britain. The Department for International Development gave £1.85m to the Foreign Office to help to pay for the costs of Pope Benedict's visit to England and Scotland last September.

Leading article: A broken nation's toxic import

The last thing Haiti needs right now is the return of Baby Doc, the former dictator whose rule in the Seventies and Eighties is remembered for its corruption and the brutality of his private militia, the Tonton Macouts. The people of the island, and the foreign diplomatic community, have been stunned by the unexpected return of the former playboy-despot Jean-Claude Duvalier to his Caribbean homeland for the first time since he was deposed in a coup in 1986.

Wildfires: The one deadly enemy Israel was unprepared to fight

All too used to honing its wartime prowess against military enemies, Israel was still struggling last night to contain a peacetime enemy, the worst wildfire – and one of the biggest natural disasters – in its history.

Charity donations still suffering from recession

Donations to charity increased last year but still remain well below their pre-recession levels, research showed today.

Leading article: Faint hope for a benighted land

It is unfortunately not unusual for an election to be held in adverse circumstances; recent votes in Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind.

Treasury urged to loosen politically driven 'ring-fenced' spending plans

Excessive, politically driven "ring-fencing" distorts government spending priorities, according to a report on the Comprehensive Spending Review published by the Treasury Committee today.

Gordon Brown delivers veiled swipe at Tony Blair

Gordon Brown issued a thinly veiled swipe at Tony Blair today as he hit out at politicians who fail to keep promises to step down from office after two terms.

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, By Romeo Dallaire

The life of a child abducted and forced to act as a combatant in a rebel army in contemporary central Africa could not be more hellish. Former child soldiers, some taken captive as young as nine, report being drugged and then forced to slaughter their own parents. Deprived of food and sleep, completely dependent on their captors for survival, they undergo a crude form of basic training before being handed light weapons and thrown into combat. If they don't die of disease or from their wounds or landmines, they are easy prey for their enemies.

Meet the godfather of the cuts

Canada's Paul Martin eradicated his country's deficit by harsh reductions in public spending. Matt Chorley meets the coalition's inspiration

DJ Taylor: Britain has shot up the corruption league – call for Wallace and Gromit!

The President of Afghanistan has been surprisingly candid about trousering Iranian cash – but it's no good us pointing the finger at dodgy foreigners
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game