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Revelling in the latest growth figures, George Osborne lifted Balls-baiting to a new plane. He was asked an unusually long list of super-friendly questions by euphoric Tory backbenchers. Ones that in the secret dreams of the MPs involved, invite the answer: “Yes. My honourable friend has absolutely hit the nail on the head with that spiffing question correctly mentioning our long-term economic plan, allowing me to lay into the Opposition, and qualifying him for early promotion.”

A political life: Christmas at Westminster, when party politics give way to plain old parties

It's important for politicians to project an image of bonhomie

James Moore: Chancellor won’t get hammered in auction

It's a risky thing to set a target price for an auction as the Government has done with the sale of bandwidth for 4G mobile phone broadband services.

Jack Straw: Served 13 years in the Cabinet and has an ear for an anecdote

IoS Books of the Year 2012: Politics

This year was a long time in politics

David Cameron in favour of change to TV election debates

PM told a Westminster lunch he was in favour of the debates in principle, but felt that in 2010 they sucked the life out of the rest of the campaign

How C. difficile caused a seismic shift in health policy

The arrival of a virulent new strain of Clostridium difficile in Britain in the early 2000s caused a medical and political firestorm, led to hundreds of deaths and claimed the scalps of several NHS trust chief executives.

Ed Balls explains his economic plans

The way Ed Balls's stutter was treated in the Commons points to a familiar compassion deficit

This behaviour shames the home of our democracy

History suggests Mark Carney's real test may come with a new government

At the start the new Governor will have Number 10 on side, writes Sean O’Grady

James Moore: Ease off from cuts and let the economy breathe

Outlook It's not only his Banking Commission that's causing Mr Osborne an unexpected migraine. Yesterday's public sector borrowing figures added weight to the view that he's more likely to persuade members of the commission to lie down and have their tummies tickled than he is to meet his public sector borrowing targets.

Business week in review

In profit...

Government's migration cap is a 'big barrier to growth', says Lord O’Donnell

The Government’s migration cap is a “big barrier to growth”, Britain’s former top civil servant has said.

Tony Blair is thought to have long coveted a senior role in European politics and failed to secure the EU presidency in 2009

Tony Blair urges EU to elect a president (so who could be in contention?)

Former PM puts case for job he is said to have wanted in the past

Don't mention green shoots! Figures will show recession is over but ministers told not to get ahead of themselves

Ministers have been ordered not to refer to "green shoots" tomorrow when they respond to official figures showing that Britain has emerged from its double-dip recession.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls in a tackle at a football match between Labour MPs and journalists in Salford

Ed Balls takes to the stage with plan to kickstart economy

Shadow Chancellor wants 100,000 new homes using 4G windfall

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls in a tackle at a football match between Labour MPs and journalists in Salford

Ed Balls unveils plan for growth: build 100,000 affordable homes

Labour will today propose a £2.5bn plan to build 100,000 homes in order to kick-start the economy, arguing that the move should take priority over paying off the deficit.

WPP's return to UK a boost for Osborne

The advertising giant WPP has confirmed it is moving its tax base from Ireland back to the UK in a long-awaited decision that will be a boost for the Chancellor, George Osborne.

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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
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick