News

'We were exotic strangers competing for notches on the bedpost'

Preview: comedy: mel and sue

Live on stage, comedians Mel and Sue are very much unchanged from their familiar personae on Channel 4's Late Lunch. They display all those qualities which gained them sofa-loads of malingering student fans: they're sassy, saucy, sussed, sarky. Oh, yes, and silly. The pair are at their best when their professionalism is at its worst. During a recent live show, they would often lose it completely in the middle of a sketch, and step out of character to take the mick out of each other's (frequent) fluffs. Rather than appearing self-indulgent, this is actually rather endearing. They appear with Tim Vine, Bill Bailey, Paul Zerdin and Jocelyn Jee at tonight's Alan Davies Appeal Benefit. Alan Davies Appeal Benefit (in aid of the Hackney Empire Appeal Fund), Hackney Empire, London E8 (0181-985 2424) tonight

Letter: Millennium song

Sir: John Harris cannot get his head around the possibility that the "millennium number one" will be a record using words written by the man who started the whole thing off 2,000 years ago ("Praise be! It's the terrifying cult of Sir Cliff", 23 November).

Space. The final frontier for a foreigner in London

`If there's a more awful experience than looking for a flat to rent, I don't want to know about it'

Parliament: Welfare - Rebels back down as benefits Bill passes Lords

LEGISLATION TO cut disability benefits was passed by the House of Lords last night, despite last-ditch claims by Labour peers that they were "grossly unjust" measures.

Parliament: Welfare - Darling accused of betraying the vulnerable

ALISTAIR DARLING came under intense pressure for "betraying" the most vulnerable people in society last night as backbenchers rebelled against measures to cut incapacity benefits (IBs).

Education: How the system failed a school

It's four years since Hackney Downs school was forced to shut down after years of very public pillorying as `Britain's Worst School'. But its long demise was no simple tale of poor teachers and lack of community support.

Letter: Squatter's wrongs

Sir: Though entertaining, Danny Penman's tale of how he was set up in an east London flat by Syd the Squatbroker exposes the myth of the "harmless" squatter ("How squatter king set me up in a London flat for pounds 120", 24 July).

Letter: Squats in Hackney

Sir: In a number of articles last week your writers have appeared to glamorise squatting in Hackney (reports, 22, 23, 24 July). I don't think that the average Hackney council tenant or property owner shares the views or perceptions of your writers.

How squatter king set me up in a London flat for pounds 120

Danny Penman gets a place from a man who acts as estate agent to the capital's homeless

Who wins in squatland?

I squatted in London for nine months and can honestly say the shelter it provided saved my life

BOOKS: The discomfort of strangers

Weird Sister by Kate Pullinger Phoenix pounds 16.99

Firm's pounds 1.4m to shake up schools

PRIVATE CONTRACTORS will be paid pounds 1.4m under a three-year deal to take over key education services in a failing London borough.

Private firm for Hackney schools

MINISTERS WILL announce shortly that they are to privatise the school improvement service in Hackney - the first time one of a council's key functions has been taken over by a private contractor.

THEATRE REVIEWS: Derevo

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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