David Cameron and Al Murray are ‘distant cousins’ family records show

David Cameron and Al Murray are ‘distant cousins’ family records show

The pair are related, equally randomly, through 19th century Vanity Fair writer William Thackeray

Arifa Akbar: An author who is writing his best work from beyond the grave

Some great authors have published their worst works from beyond the grave. A few though, keep getting better when they’re dead, such as the Chilean novelist and short story writer, Roberto Bolaño. His seminal five-part novel, 2666, came out posthumously, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and convinced the world he was not just a master of the short form but could put out his life’s best work at nearly 900 pages, even after death.

Reduced Shakespeare Company banned: Unionist council smites Bible comedy

A light-hearted play about Christianity written almost 20 years ago is at the centre of an “astonishing” censorship row after performances were cancelled by councillors in Northern Ireland who deemed it “blasphemous”.

Postcard from... New York

Book reviews: Poetry round-up

Poets have traditionally written to tempt coy mistresses into bed, and Marvell duly turns up inside the covers of The Poetry of Sex (Viking £14.99). Published in time for Valentine’s Day, this anthology features a huge “X” on its cover. Is there such a thing as raunchy poetry? Does the editor Sophie Hannah want us to admire the enjambment or heat- up so much that, like Dante’s Paolo and Francesca, we tremblingly push the book aside and “read no more that day”?

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M Gates - book review

There’s a perfect piece of Washington DC anthropology by the 33rd president of the United States, Harry S Truman, that should be carefully tucked into the back pocket of US political correspondents and pulled out when crises, such as placing too much faith in the White House, arise unexpectedly.

Arthur Scargill at a public meeting in London on the 25th anniversary of the miners' strike in 2009

Former NUM leader Arthur Scargill 'tried to buy London flat under Margaret Thatcher's right-to-buy scheme'

Miners' union general secretary Chris Kitchen: 'Unfortunately the perception I had of Arthur the great trade unionist, socialist, just is nothing like the reality as to the man that I know now'

Book review: 'Boxer Handsome' by Anna Whitwham

This promising debut novel about boxing shows both its violence and its value

Emma Thompson arriving for the National Board of Review Awards in New York

Emma Thompson fancies playing Sherlock Holmes: Actor in favour of gender-blind casting

The actor Emma Thompson has spoken out this week in favour of gender-blind casting, admitting her particular desire to play the role of Sherlock Holmes.

Acts of Union and Disunion, By Linda Colley: Book review - a lively analysis that disentangles the false unities from the real disunities

I first met Professor Linda Colley in 10 Downing St, during those heady days after Blair's first election victory. Cherie Blair had invited the historian to deliver a pre-buffet lecture on Britishness. Exhilarating and erudite, the talk turned into a subtle critique of Cool Britannia, the daft "rebranded" national identity marketed by New Labour.

A motorist navigates past a fallen tree after weather 'chaos' in north Antrim

Errors and Omissions: Plunged into chaos by journalistic exaggeration

The Independent's letters editor and chief pedant spots this week's best howlers

Man arrested after body found in Stafford on Christmas morning

The body of an elderly man was found in the road in the early hours of Christmas Day

Passion for Life is described as the ‘ultimate illustrated guide to the technicolour life of a British icon’

Joan Collins’ scrapbook and killer quotes: the best cinema books for Christmas

In Rosebud Sleds And Horses’ Heads (Intellect, £9.95) Scott Jordan Harris explores film’s most evocative objects. The text is pithy, but the items feel random. You could argue that 2001’s totem is the gleaming red eye of HAL 9000 rather than the Monolith, or that Marty McFly’s DeLorean, or even his pants, are more key to Back To The Future than his hoverboard.

Panto debut: Jo Brand (fourth left) is a genie in Aladdin

Panto is one of our great theatrical traditions – oh yes it is!

It’s behind you!” If those words elicit a groan, then bah humbug to you. You may hate pantomime but I’m honing my heckles in preparation to see several shows around the country.

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Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
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Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
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How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right