Arts and Entertainment David Blunkett thinks shows that mock politicians should be subject to tougher libel scrutiny

Programmes that mock politicians cross the line from satire to comment, he says

Obituary: Professor Sidney Pollard

SIDNEY POLLARD was an economic and social historian who commanded an international reputation, and made important contributions across the discipline.

Climbing video makes Peaks look too easy

IT LOOKS easy enough in the film. Forty feet up a rockface, seemingly standing on nothing, teenager Leo Houlding gingerly reaches for a huge, reassuring hold on the top of the crag, grabs it and skips lightly onto the grass above.

Changing blooms

Yet another real-life TV series about neighbours and their relationships is imminent - but this time, they all get on. Not only that, they've been building community spirit in their gardens. Michael Leapman joins in

Racism remark causes police fury

DAVID WILMOT, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, reiterated his belief yesterday that his force is plagued by institutional racism, an assertion that has infuriated - and mystified - his 7,000 officers.

Trying to clarify the linguistic confusion

RANK-AND-FILE officers in Greater Manchester demanded an explanation yesterday of precisely what their chief constable, David Wilmot, meant when he said there was institutional racism in the force.

Letter: No vote

IN HER column (4 October) Joan Smith noted that over one-quarter of the British electorate did not vote at the 1997 general election, and claimed that "we don't know whether they had more pressing engagements or simply couldn't be bothered to walk to the nearest polling station". The survey of several thousand voters conducted after every election (the British Election Study based at Nuffield College, Oxford) asks respondents if they voted and, if not, why not. Their answers range widely, from "couldn't be bothered" through "it would make no difference whoever is elected" to "work prevented me from voting" and "I was away from home". We published several studies of these responses after the 1992 election, concluding that non-voters can be divided into two groups: those who made a conscious decision not to vote; and those who would have voted if they could but were prevented from doing so.

Law: Our Learned Friend: Tough words on legal aid

AS THE Lord Chancellor led his judges into Westminster Abbey yesterday for the Opening of the Legal Year, he may have been in reflective mode. He may have remembered that, almost a year ago, he announced the withdrawal of legal aid from most civil disputes. He may have been reflecting that it has all proved more difficult than he had expected.

Music: Last Call

UNTIL THIS year's much-praised debut album and a Top 10 single with "Nancy Boy", Placebo had huge hype but small sales. The key to Placebo's rise lies in makeup-wearing front-man Brian Molko and lyrics about the darker side of life - cue a cult of eager fans and a part for Molko in Todd Haynes' "Velvet Goldmine".

Obituary: Professor Alan Usher

ALAN USHER was one of Britain's leading forensic pathologists. He was the archetypal "Home Office pathologist" figure who maintained the traditions of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, John Glaister and Keith Simpson, in dress, mannerisms and, above all, cool professionalism.

Obituary: Professor Tom Kaiser

TOM KAISER was Professor of Space Physics at Sheffield University from 1966 until 1987. During this period he attracted high-quality scientists to Sheffield, building up an internationally renowned group in Space Geophysics.

Beat the age gap blues

Summer-borns can suffer educationally

Obituary: Professor Harry Armytage

HARRY ARMYTAGE had a distinguished career as Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and later, as Professor of Education in Sheffield University, over a period of 32 years from 1948 to 1980.

Where is The Observer's guardian angel?

Donald Trelford, former editor of the `Observer', argues that the newspaper's circulation problems have been misleadingly reported

Politics: Hattersley speech on school choice

Parents should only be able to send their children to the school nearest their home, Lord Hattersley said last night.

Letter: Unsafe convictions

Sir: Your leading article (21 May) on the nurses convicted of murder in Saudi Arabia entirely misses the point. Over four hundred years ago Michel de Montaigne pointed out that it is always unsafe to convict persons of serious crimes on confessional evidence - especially when that evidence is uncorroborated. That even the latest series of miscarriages of justice in this country does not seem to have convinced the judiciary of this obvious fact is, I fear, only to be expected.
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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