News High ideals: Labour has built around 400 homes in each of its local authority areas since the election

Conservative councils build only half as much affordable and social housing

'Act now to save our natural environment or Britain's most precious wildlife will be lost forever'

England's green and pleasant land is in catastrophic decline, with some of its most precious wildlife at risk of disappearing for ever, the first comprehensive report into the nation's natural life has shown.

The Sketch: Whether or not Boris wins, the gentlemen are back in the game

It's amateurs vs professionals. That's the current theme, or narrative of politics just now.

Climate change could force 1 billion from their homes by 2050

As many as one billion people could lose their homes by 2050 because of the devastating impact of global warming, scientists and political leaders will be warned today.

More than 100 MPs employ family members on expenses

More than a hundred MPs – including two cabinet ministers – employ family members as taxpayer-funded assistants, the House of Commons has disclosed. The first official list, published in the wake of the scandal which cost the former Tory MP Derek Conway his political career, showed that MPs of all parties have close relatives on the public payroll. It includes senior figures such as the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, the Housing minister, Caroline Flint, the shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, and the former Tory leader Michael Howard.

Terence Blacker: The whiff of defeatism in the face of an old enemy

Imagine for a moment that a government body has delivered a report which presents, as one of four policy options, the prospect of your house being destroyed as well as your local shops, pub, village and landscape. It could happen within the next decade or so, the experts tell you, or in a century's time. On the other hand, the disaster could take place within a year. And, no, under present legislation, there would be no compensation.

Cabinet split over new coal-fired power station

Plans to build Britain's first coal-fired power station since 1984 have led to a cabinet split amid concerns that the project would undermine efforts to cut carbon emissions.

Damning report calls for a bio-secure zone at leak lab

A permanent bio-security zone should be set up around Pirbright, the government laboratories at the centre of the recent foot-and-mouth outbreak, says a damning independent report.

Terence Blacker: Rural dwellers are the victims of betrayal

How Hilary Benn's heart must have sunk at the arrival of yet another report on the state of rural Britain. New Labour has never quite understood the countryside, and those made responsible for it – Nick Smith, Margaret Beckett, Ben Bradshaw, David Miliband – have exuded the long-suffering air of professional politicians doing their best until a more important job comes along.

Badger cull to combat TB unlikely to work, say MPs

The prospect of a badger cull to combat the soaring epidemic of tuberculosis in cattle has diminished after MPs recommended any future slaughter should be strictly limited.

Medals for the 'land girls' of the Second World War

Dressed in a scratchy uniform of brown woollen breeches, a green jumper and a shirt and tie, they were the women whose back-breaking labours in milking parlours, lumber yards and on muddy fields helped to ensure that Britain did not starve during the Second World War.

Bird flu testing is cut despite fears virus has spread

Number of wild birds monitored by government vets down 17% – and even those tests may be seriously flawed, experts say

Tens of thousands of badgers face extermination in attempt to curb TB

Farmers draw up plans for cull, which minister says cannot be legally stopped<br />Family sett made famous in Bill Oddie's 'Springwatch' TV show within death zone

The visit: How a German Pope's tour of Auschwitz reopened old wounds

He appeared to do what was necessary. He stood in the drizzle while the wind tugged at his skull-cap. He trudged alone in his long white cassock under that sign that gives a jolly little jump in the middle, the one that reads "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work is Liberty). He went there, he said, as "a son of Germany," and to hammer home the point, he spoke while he was there in German (for most of his Polish trip he spoke either Italian or the Polish he has taken such trouble to master).

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Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
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Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
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Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
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The eyes have it: Kate Bush
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment