John Rentoul: How democracy works

Part 1 of an occasional series. First, everyone, apart from elected representatives, agrees that all elected representatives are lying, thieving and cheating scumbags.

Royal PR guru takes Downing Street role

The public relations guru who helped rescue the Royal Family's reputation after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales is to become Gordon Brown's new director of communications, Downing Street said today.

Leading article: The dam has burst – and the waters of reform must flow

MPs' expenses and the drive for constitutional change are related

Campaign for Democracy: Have your say

In the wake of the expenses scandal, we are living in potentially revolutionary times. After decades of growing disenchantment with our political system, many voters are restless and seeking genuine change to the way in which this nation is governed.

Robert Webb: We need an independent inquiry

The 7 July bombings were the largest peacetime attack in mainland Britain and we are still feeling the effects. The verdicts make dealing with Laura's death more difficult from the point of view of wanting answers, wanting to know why people did what they did, and wanting to see some form of justice being done. It makes it hard. But we have to respect that we have due process, and don't assume someone is guilty.

Leading article: Our democracy must be transparent

Westminister was the stage for a political farce yesterday. In the morning, the Prime Minister's spokesman announced that a Commons vote on exempting MPs expenses from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act would go ahead as planned. But by noon, the line from Downing Street had changed and it said there would be further consultation on the matter. Shortly afterwards, Gordon Brown sought to pin the blame for the reversal on the Opposition, although quite why the Prime Minister needs the approval of the Tories to hold a Commons vote went unexplained.

Hasina looks set for power

An alliance led by Bangladesh's former prime minister Sheikh Hasina has taken an early lead in unofficial results from yesterday's parliamentary polls, election officials said.

European feudalism finally ends as Sark heads for democracy

Jerome Taylor reports on an acrimonious election marred by the Barclay brothers' threat to withdraw investment from island

<a href="http://angela-harris.livejournal.com/620.html">Angela Harris: Lord Russell-Johnston's defence of democracy</a>

I want to pay a special tribute to the late Lord Russell-Johnston, a proud defender of the Liberal way and a man who in many ways brought Scotland to Europe. For anyone to hold a seat in Parliament for 33 years is a remarkable achievement, but Lord Russell-Johnston was more importantly a man of political passion and ethics.

<a href="http://blogs.independent.co.uk/independent/keen_on_new_media-1/">Andrew Keen: Interactivism</a>

Thanks to the Guardian's digital supremo Emily Bell, direct electronic democracy now has a name. It's called interactivism.

World Focus: Mbeki foresaw a split &ndash; but not this sort of split

In the early 1990s, before he was president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki predicted the ruling African National Congress would split when the country's politics had normalised.

The Online lobby: The blog sites transforming our democracy

Political blog sites are growing like topsy. But which site is the most influential? Nigel Morris chooses his 10 favourites.

Democracy: Crisis and Renewal, By Paul Ginsborg

Democracy is in crisis, suggests Paul Ginsborg. Although, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been an increase in the number of countries belonging to the United Nations which can be "broadly defined as democratic" (120 out of 192 by 2000), he argues that the quality of democracy has sharply declined and the nature of politics has changed. This book, which uses the work of Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill as a backdrop, feels more in tune with the kind of active, engaged political process people are increasingly being deprived of.

Bhutan gets first taste of democracy

By Simon Denyer in Thimpu

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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
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff