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Even the room somewhere in Westminster where the historic meeting was to take place was kept secret until the last minute. Once “C”, Sir John Sawers, and his two colleagues arrived, the Intelligence and Security Committee chairman Sir Malcolm Rifkind announced a time delay on the TV broadcast lest anything endangering national security should be said. Mysteriously, the man sitting immediately behind MI5’s Andrew Parker bore a passing resemblance to Nikita Khrushchev. We were, in short, all keyed up.

Jane Merrick: Miliband – heir to Blair the smiley Emotibot?

Why has the Foreign Secretary challenged the Prime Minister now? And why has the likeliest winner not yet decided to run?

Wyness quits on eve of stadium decision

Everton have been left to contemplate the atrocious timing of their chief executive's resignation, days before a Government ruling which could jeopardise one of the most significant moments in the club's history: their move from Goodison to a new purpose-built stadium at Kirkby.

Brown make prices pledge after defeat

Gordon Brown today vowed to do "whatever is necessary" to help people struggling with rising food and fuel prices in the wake of Labour's catastrophic defeat in the Glasgow East by-election.

Muslim panel to advise on rights and wrongs of veil

The wearing of the Islamic veil will be one of the issues examined by a panel of Islamic experts that is being set up by the Government.

Terence Blacker: We can all see you're conning us, Hazel

In a near-perfect piece of political casting, Hazel Blears has introduced a White Paper on local government, hilariously entitled Communities in Control. Like the smilingly officious primary schoolteacher she occasionally resembles, Ms Blears has patted the electorate on the head and has promised lots and lots of new rules to make things better for everybody.

Tories 'in disarray' at Lewis departure

Labour moved to capitalise on a setback for David Cameron's Conservatives yesterday, claiming the party was in disarray after the resignation of the London Mayor Boris Johnson's deputy, Ray Lewis.

Not in our backyard! A Bill that threatens historic right to protest

More than 60 Labour MPs are threatening to derail plans to weaken people's long-standing right to oppose the building of new nuclear power stations and airport runways in their own "backyards".

Hazel Blears breached rules over data on stolen PC

The Government has suffered yet another embarrassing data loss after a cabinet minister breached its rules by holding confidential information on a personal computer.

Minister's computer stolen

A computer has been stolen from the constituency office of Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, it was revealed today.

Davis forces by-election over 'erosion of freedoms'

The shadow home secretary David Davis shocked Westminster today by announcing that he was resigning as an MP to "take a stand" against the Government's 42-day terror detention plan.

Poll blow to PM

Labour now 17 points behind the Tories as it faces crucial by-election test. Voters suggest Gordon Brown must be dumped if party is to win next election

Dominic Lawson: He appears to have robotic self-discipline. But inside, Brown is a ferment of emotion

It's amazing what robots can do these days. This week a humanoid named Asimo conducted – or appeared to be conducting – the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. It was rather sweet, actually: four foot three inches tall, shiny white (apart from a red Honda logo on its back) – and capable of a courteous bow at the beginning and end of the performance. The audience, and the orchestra itself, seemed to love it.

Michael Brown: It's far worse for Brown than it was for Major

The Labour peer Lord Desai recently compared Gordon Brown's style to "porridge – maybe haggis". The question is whether the Prime Minister is now toast. With Frank Field still – a decade on – "thinking the unthinkable", albeit now with apologies, the mutterings are turning to the once unthinkable option of consigning Mr Brown to the dustbin of history without even giving him the opportunity of facing the electorate.

Alan Watkins: Mr Brown is running out of friends

David Cameron is starting to look like a future prime minister, while the current occupant of No 10 is short of ideas and allies

Britain's new national sport: Taking pot shots at Brown

He is facing abuse, plots and damaging revelations. What a time, then, for the beleaguered premier to face the voters. Jane Merrick and Brian Brady report
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 23 January 2015
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness