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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.

Brown backs Blears despite 'unacceptable' tax claim





Gordon Brown continues to have full confidence in Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, despite twice publicly branding her behaviour "unacceptable", the Prime Minister's spokesman said today.

Gentlemen's club has come to end, says Brown

Gordon Brown launched another bid to draw a line under the MPs' expenses scandal today, saying: "The gentlemen's club has come to an end."

Labour to axe MPs over abuse of expenses

Labour MPs found guilty of abusing the expenses system will be barred from standing as party candidates under measures agreed yesterday.

Stadium delays alarm Benitez

Liverpool face the prospect of missing out on tens of millions of pounds in revenue, vital to their pursuit of Manchester United, by missing two vital deadlines for the construction of their new stadium, which is the cornerstone of the club's growth.

A dark day for Parliament. A new dawn for democracy?

Michael Brown, an MP for 18 years, reflects on a historic day at Westminster

John Rentoul: A leadership election would do Labour a lot of good

The candidates to succeed Gordon Brown would need to pledge to go to the country

The Right Honourable Spongers... and the longest week in their lives

One by one, all three main political parties reeled from fresh revelations over their members' expense claims. Brian Brady and Jane Merrick report

The Sketch: Vote Labour! Yes, that really was the message

It was more like a memorial service than a campaign launch. Dull, dutiful, deadly. A husk of a prime minister introduced the proposition for the local and European elections: "Vote Labour! We sacked Elliot Morley!"

Latest expenses revealed as MPs join payback scramble

Ex-minister claimed £16,000 for non-existant mortgage as Health minister agrees to return £41,709 expenses

Minister to pay back £41,709 of expense claims

The health minister Phil Hope is to hand back £41,709 in taxpayer-funded MPs expenses, he announced today.

Tax authorities may close housing loophole

Exemption for 'second homes' faces abolition

John Rentoul: Don't be wimps about these revelations

Instead of being so defensive about their expense claims, Labour should claim credit for promoting freedom of information

Leading article: A flipping sense of entitlement

It is the details that do the damage. To be blunt, none of the MPs whose expenses were exposed last week has benefited unfairly from the public purse to anything like the extent of Sir Fred Goodwin, the former boss of RBS. His pension fund, paid for by the taxpayers that now own the bank, is worth £17m.

Labour rocked by expenses revelations

Brown, Mandelson, Straw and Blears highlighted in embarrassing leak
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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?
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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
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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