News

Late in PM’s Questions the (very) right-wing Tory backbencher Peter Bone rose to deliver his magisterial verdict on Nick Clegg’s substitution for the absent David Cameron. “Hasn’t the acting Prime Minister been outstanding today?” he asked, adding that “anyone listening on the radio” would have thought it was Cameron himself. (This wasn’t a huge compliment since Bone is hardly the PM’s greatest fan). But then the only half-sarcastic pay-off: “I think that the Right Hon Gentleman is turning into a Tory.”

Osborne appoints critic to top job at Treasury watchdog

The Chancellor has recruited one of his most trenchant critics to head the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) – the Treasury watchdog responsible for economic forecasts.

Labour votes on reserving half Shadow Cabinet seats for women

Half of the seats in Labour's Shadow Cabinet could be reserved for women under proposals to be voted on by Labour MPs today.

Labour challenged over spending

The Treasury minister Danny Alexander is to challenge Labour to spell out where it would cut public spending, as he claims the only coherent economic policy put forward by the opposition is in Tony Blair's book – and it backs the coalition.

All the Globe's a stage – even for women writers

As Shakespeare's theatre opens its doors today for the first time to a play by a female writer, Rachel Shields reports on a wider theatrical revolution

Osborne's Budget may have breached equality law

The coalition Government faces the embarrassing prospect of being rebuked by the equalities watchdog over whether its planned spending cuts are "unfair" on groups such as women, the disabled and ethnic minorities.

Pope's UK visit schedule to contain nap breaks

Organisers of the Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain have arranged slots in the Pope’s itinerary to allow him to take a nap.

Sound and fury, but little dynamite so far in the Mandelson memoirs

In April 2008, Lord Mandelson began gathering material for his memoirs. After trawling through his private papers, he was almost breathless with excitement as he told friends: "It's a goldmine. You can't imagine what I have found."

Mandelson memoir sparks Labour Party infighting

Senior Labour figures pleaded for calm yesterday as the imminent publication of Peter Mandelson's memoirs, The Third Man, provoked a fresh round of party infighting.

John Bercow: 'We need reform. Too bad if it disturbs people's lunch'

A year on from his appointment as Speaker, John Bercow tells Steve Richards why he is determined to change the culture of the House – starting with Prime Minister's Questions

Families face tax-credit crisis again

The Budget contains hidden hardships for poorer families, writes Alison Shepherd

Terence Blacker: We won't be nagged any more

Half-close your eyes, apply a bit of imagination, and you will see a startling resemblance between Harriet Harman, acting leader of the Labour Party, and Mary Portas, the TV bossyboots who likes to be known as "Mary Queen of Shops". Both have brutalist hairstyles. Both have mouths which seem to have been shaped by years of saying the word "inappropriate" at regular intervals. Both convey, in their every word and gesture, the conviction that not only do they have the answer to life's problems but that it is their duty to persuade the rest of us to be like them. Both suddenly seem to belong to a dying age. It is the twilight of the nanny.

The Sketch: Admirer or despiser, it all depends on what matches your shoes

In the dealings of the Axeman and the Taxman we also need a Paxman – someone to tell us in fact what we remember we think we were told.

John Rentoul: Beneath the bluster, she had a point

Harman was not going to convince anyone - fair-minded centrists or wavering Liberal Democrats, with such a partisan attack

David Cameron not being 'straight' on Budget, says Harriet Harman

Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman clashed angrily with the Prime Minister today over the effect of the emergency Budget on pensioners and families.

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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
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