'Gang rivals' stabs London schoolboy to death

A teenage boy was stabbed to death in an ambush by suspected rival gang members as he arrived at school today.

Inside Lines: As her free swim scheme sinks Jowell awaits call from 2012

I took my two young grandchildren swimming last week, expecting the customary free admission for under-16s and "senior citizens" at the local pool in Surrey. "Sorry," I was told. "You'll have to pay up like everyone else." It transpired they were making early implementation of the new Government's decision to scrap the scheme launched with such a fanfare by the former Olympics minister Tessa Jowell two years ago. Now it has been ditched as part of the £73m worth of cuts to the sports budget, and I suspect it is one which has given the incoming sports minister, Hugh Robertson, sleepless nights. He admits the decision "gives me no pleasure" but says it is a necessary contribution to the overall economy – though the saving, some £5m, seems a drop in an Olympic-sized pool. The initiative, which the Government claims has not delivered value for money, was one of Labour's key Olympic legacies yet curiously there has not been a peep of protest from Jowell. Is this because she has growing hopes of a role with 2012 – which Robertson and Seb Coe are currently discussing – and doesn't wish to rock the boat politically?

Is this a PM we see before us?

Mrs Thatcher is back – on stage at least – and she's not the only politician being reborn in the theatre. But, asks Michael Coveney, how wide is the gap between theatre and reality?

'Sons of Blair' do battle with 'Sons of Brown' for Labour's leadership

Burnham joins the race as left-winger McDonell admits he is unlikely to win mass support

Jowell warns Hunt over 2012 budget

Tessa Jowell, the former Olympics minister, has cautioned her successor over making any cuts to the budget for the London Games, a tone echoed by the Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Defiant Brown admits he is fighting for survival

Gordon Brown admitted yesterday that he is now fighting for political survival, as he made a frenzied tour of 10 Labour constituencies in London to shore up the party's core vote, motivate activists and convey a sense of activity to the electorate.

The Last Word: Which of the big hitters will land knock-out blow?

Politicians have not given enough thought to sport despite its relevance to nation's health and finances

Tory hopeful arrested after scuffle at Prescott event

A would-be Tory councillor was arrested today after a scuffle at a John Prescott General Election campaign event.

Inside Lines: Game on as sport braces itself for post-election shake-up

Whoever wins the election, sport can expect some fundamental changes in the way it is governed. The two main parties have plans to "shake up" the system, notably in football where the possible appointment of a regulator to oversee the game is likely to be included in both Labour and Conservative manifestoes. Any appointee – Tory peer Lord Mahwinney, until last week the Football League's chairman, is said to be favourite – could be given the US-style title of Football Commissioner. Government-backed organisations such as UK Sport, Sport England and the Youth Sports Trust can also expect some serious revision, as can their overlords, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, particularly if the Tories gain power. A strong Labour influence in these bodies has been of some concern to the shadow sports minister, Hugh Robertson, who also pledges to restore Lottery funding for sport to its original level of 20 per cent. This has fallen from £460 million to £217m. The election will pose fresh questions about the role of the sports ministry. Labour undoubtedly would retain Tessa Jowell as Olympics minister but some feel that Gerry Sutcliffe will have to raise not so much his game but his profile to keep her company as sports minister. Any Lib-Lab pact in a coalition government might see Liberal spokesman Don Foster given the job. Should Labour win, Jowell is likely to be offered a strictly non-political role by Seb Coe as a 2012 ambassador. The increasingly impressive Robertson, who has twice turned down offers from David Cameron of promotion to a front-bench shadow ministry, hopes to combine the jobs of Olympics and sports minister. Politically overseeing the delivery of the 2012 Games should make this a Cabinet position.

Labour pledges local 'mutualised' services

plans to allow people to take over and run key local services are to be unveiled in Labour's election manifesto in an attempt to win back the trust of voters, ministers will announce today.

£6m for after-school Olympic sport clubs

Teenagers will get the chance to try out Olympic and Paralympic sports through a £6 million network of after-school clubs, Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw announced today.

'Limited effect' as civil servants go on two-day strike

A trade union claimed 200,000 civil servants caused widespread disruption to public services yesterday as they began a two-day strike – but the notion was rejected by the Government last night. The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said court sittings were cancelled, Jobcentres could offer only limited services, border controls at ports and airports were disrupted and passport appointments were delayed.

Union and Government clash over civil servants' strike

Union leaders clashed with the Government tonight over the effect of a strike by civil servants.

Tory public sector workers plan announced

The Tories kept up an explicit push to woo Labour supporters today by renewing a pledge to give public sector workers the chance to form co-operatives to run services.

Inside Lines: What's the big idea? Political heavies square up over sport

Never mind that spiteful spat across the pond between the Pacman and Pretty Boy (which the cynics among us believe isn't a bad ploy to sell ever more pay-per-view when they do eventually meet), the tastiest big fight here over the coming months is likely to be a political punch-up between Labour and Conservative with sport as a pre-election battleground.

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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game