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Revelling in the latest growth figures, George Osborne lifted Balls-baiting to a new plane. He was asked an unusually long list of super-friendly questions by euphoric Tory backbenchers. Ones that in the secret dreams of the MPs involved, invite the answer: “Yes. My honourable friend has absolutely hit the nail on the head with that spiffing question correctly mentioning our long-term economic plan, allowing me to lay into the Opposition, and qualifying him for early promotion.”

Aidan Burley claimed that he left the dinner immediately after a guest had proposed a toast to the Third Reich

Calls to reopen inquiry into Tory MP Aidan Burley's Nazi-themed stag party

The Conservative Party is facing calls to reopen its inquiry into a Nazi-themed stag party attended by Aidan Burley.

Matt Parker, far right, heads a 16-man team charged with preparing England for the World Cup next year

Six Nations Championship: ‘Mr Marginal Gains’ gears up England’s game

There are plenty of people out there who look at the way the All Blacks are playing – not to mention the way the Springboks have added a sprinkling of panache to their power game – and reach the conclusion that England cannot possibly win their home World Cup next year without a miracle.

Flatlining: the Government has been accused by Labour of intentionally 'running down' the NHS

NHS hospitals flatlining: Staff morale falls to new low after Coalition ‘bashing’

Health experts warn Mid-Staffs crisis has taken terrible toll on frontline workers

Let down: PC David Rathband, who was blinded by gunman Raoul Moat

Pc David Rathband: Estranged wife 'could not forgive officer left blind by gunman Raoul Moat over affair with 7/7 survivor Lisa French'

Kath Rathband tells inquest estranged husband who was shot and left blind by gunman Raoul Moat would call her 100 times a day

Whistleblower Julie Bailey, of the campaign group 'Cure the NHS' poses outside the Houses of Parliament with a copy of the report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust Foundation Public Inquiry.

NHS whistleblower Julie Bailey abused on Facebook after being awarded CBE

Cure the NHS activist Julie Bailey and nurse Helene Donnelly were both mentioned in the New Year Honours List for their work as whistleblowers

The number of forensic examinations carried out on victims of rape and serious sexual assault in London has plummeted despite a dramatic rise in attacks being reported to police (the picture was posed by models)

Forensic examinations of rape victims plummet

The number of forensic examinations carried out on victims of rape and serious sexual assault in London has plummeted despite a dramatic rise in attacks being reported to police.

Nearly eight years after this rally in Trafalgar Square in London, the problem of Islamophobia carries on

Islamophobia: Surge revealed in anti-Muslim hate crimes

Many forces reported a particular rise in anti-Islam hate crimes following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby

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

The NHS is planning to hire 3,700 extra nurses in the coming months

More than 1,000 extra trainee nursing places to be created

NHS wants to tackle the growing shortage of nurses on hospital wards

A man has been banned from every supermarket in Britain after he was caught masturbating in the aisles of a Sainsbury's supermarket

Man banned from every supermarket in Britain for masturbating in Sainsbury’s meat aisle

49-year-old had become overwhelmed by his 'excessive sexual drive', a court heard. He can now only enter a supermarket when accompanied by an adult

Guide dog mauled while helping owner deliver Christmas cards

‘Friendly’ black Labrador Gwen did not fight back because she was working and in her harness at the time

JCB to create 2,500 jobs as Osborne praises 'strong' manufacturing investment

Vehicle manufacturing giant JCB is set to create 2500 new jobs by 2018 as part of a £150 million expansion plan.

Football match-fixing: Two men remanded in custody over allegations

A total of seven have been arrested over the allegations

Councils have reduced the numbers of staff responsible for the upkeep of rights of way

Barbed wire, missing bridges and impenetrable overgrowth: Ramblers restricted by council cutbacks

More than 100,000 hazards on England’s footpaths, warns charity

Marko Arnautovic praises Charlie Adam impact for Stoke City

Forward Marko Arnautovic believes his Stoke team-mate Charlie Adam's recent exploits have sent a message to Potters boss Mark Hughes.

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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