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

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.

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.

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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