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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.

Richard Ingrams's Week: One rule for Hogg and another for Cameron

I have never been all that keen on wisteria, that woody rambling climber that left to its own devices will cover the front of many country cottages producing masses of pale mauve blossoms at this time of the year.

Kenwright: summer budget will be tight

Everton chairman hails manager's success despite lean finances

No 10 defends ministers over tax advice claims

Downing Street today moved to defend ministers under fire for claiming for tax advice on their parliamentary expenses.

Four Labour MPs face discipline panel

Four Labour MPs accused of abusing their expenses face the prospect of being forced to step down when their cases are judged by their party's new disciplinary panel today.

MPs hired ex-minister's husband for tax advice

An MP's husband provided personal tax advice to at least five Labour MPs - including Foreign Secretary David Miliband - paid for by parliamentary expenses, it emerged today.

Cameron invites political novices to join the Tory candidates' list

But call for open selection process may be incompatible with leader's demands for immediate election

John Rentoul: If Esther's the answer, the question is wrong

Neither Ms Rantzen, nor Katie Price, can transform our parliamentary system. Trendy quick fixes are not the solution

Brown calls Blair in to No 10 for secret talks as crisis mounts

PM's announcement of national plan for Britain came day after hour-long one-to-one meeting

Voters turn on main parties

Poll shows 80% want independent candidates to challenge 'unethical' MPs at ballot box

Andrew Grice: Off with their heads! But is Westminster justice fair?

The body count is soaring as party leaders crack down on MPs caught in the expenses mire – but backbenchers are first for the chop

Phantom mortgage MP to leave Commons at election

The MP for Wirral South, Ben Chapman, last night became the first Labour MP to announce that he would stand down as a result of the scandal over parliamentary expenses.

Simon Carr: Maybe we've only just begun. Here are three possible effects...

<i>The Independent's</i> sketchwriter on the deadliest of scandals

Brown tries to head off poll boycott by activists

Email apology to party workers after fears that campaign is moribund

Pandora: A twist in the tale of Hazel's big cheque

Time for the latest chapter in the enduring saga of Hazel Blears and her peculiar relationship with HM Revenues and Customs, as it emerges that Ms Blears' promise to add £13,332 to the nation's coffers may be rather more complicated that it first seemed.

The Sketch: And for his next trick, Gordon hits himself

How agile do prime ministers need to be? Not agile at all, is the strict answer, but only as long as nothing happens. If there is an event, the ideal prime minister deals with it.

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After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
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Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

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Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas