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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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Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada