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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
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas