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Cabinet meetings under Margaret Thatcher were “miserably disappointing” gatherings devoid of debate and filled with “unctuous self-satisfaction”, one her most senior ministers said in 1984.

David Prosser: Dudley prepares for stage two of thegreat BP clean-up

Outlook It is known in business as the "kitchen sink" strategy and for the new boss of a company with problems, it is an attractive proposition. On day one in the job, you dramatically announce you're chucking out everything that went before (including the kitchen sink) under the discredited management, in favour of new arrangements you will supervise personally. Goodbye tarnished brand, hello shiny new image.

Leak is plugged but storm has not abated for BP

The oil giant faces a difficult few years as compensation claims are settled, inquiries report and the safety regime is tightened. Sarah Arnott reports

Let us drill – or we may not have cash to pay Gulf claims

BP appeals to Congress as it considers banning firm from exploring US waters

Australian Labor Party edges closer to victory

Prime Minister Julia Gillard edged closer to retaining power in Australia yesterday when an independent lawmaker said he would support her centre-left Labor Party to form Australia's first minority government in almost seven decades.

Now Australia gets a taste of hung parliaments

Australia faces an almost unprecedented period of political uncertainty, after the tightest election in decades failed to produce a clear winner and left the two main parties courting a handful of independent and Green MPs.

Poll puzzle for immigrants as Australia votes

With both major parties talking tough on refugees, who will its settlers support in this week's election?

Use of 'toxic stew' to get rid of oil brings more trouble for BP

The Gulf of Mexico has been "carpet- bombed" with a highly toxic chemical dispersant for months on end, breaking official guidelines issued in the aftermath of April's Deepwater Horizon disaster which stated that BP should use the substance only in "extremely rare" cases, according to documents released by a US House of Representatives committee at the weekend.

US budget deficit is not sustainable, Bernanke warns

Ben Bernanke took his "something must be done" message about the US deficit to Capitol Hill once again yesterday, telling lawmakers that they risked riling financial markets if they fail to tackle the exploding costs of government health and social security programmes.

Rudd's ruling party trails opposition

Australian prime Minister Kevin Rudd has admitted he needs to work hard to retain power in elections this year after an opinion poll published yesterday showed his Labor Party trailing the Conservatives for the first time in more than four years.

Aquino set to win Philippine poll and carry on family dynasty

Benigno Aquino queued for five hours in the tropical heat to cast his vote in his home town north of Manila yesterday. But despite computer problems at some polling stations and a wave of election-day violence, the scion of the family closely associated with democracy in the Philippines was heading for victory in the presidential election.

Geithner presses package over dangerous failures

US Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner went to Capitol Hill to press Congress to pass the Wall Street reform package that will allow the government to wind up huge financial firms whose uncontrolled collapse would threaten the entire economy. Members of the House of Representatives financial services committee questioned some aspects of the proposals, including the plan to have companies with more than $10bn in assets repay costs to unwind a firm after it fails. “Most of us don’t die and then buy a life insurance policy,” said Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, saying the funds should be put in place in advance. Mr Geithner said that “would create expectations that the government would step in to protect shareholders and creditors from losses.”

Political quake shakes Japan

Ruling party set to lose 50-year grip on power as rise in unemployment expected to dominate election

Bernanke warns against meddling with Fed

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, has warned that Congressional meddling in the affairs of the central bank could alarm the financial markets and send interest rates higher.

Obama earmarks emergency funding to fight swine flu

President Barack Obama today earmarked 1.825 billion dollars (£1.11 billion) in emergency funding to help fight the spread of swine flu.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
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