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'Spreadsheet Phil' has a real treat in store for young people – a discount rail card

So it's budget day and I'll spare you much of the detail because the reality is it's hard to get excited over an avalanche of facts and figures when all we want to know is how it's all going to affect the change in our wallets.
Though I have to say, Chancellor Philip Hammond has got his work cut out for him today (Wednesday) in what the press are dubbing his 'make or break' budget. You may be aware that he messed things up quite royally in his last budget when he tried to get self-employed people to pay more National Insurance and so all eyes are on him not making such a miscalculated blunder again.
At the same time there is a sense, particularly amongst his opponents, that he must pull something radical out of the bag to get this economy back up and rolling. It's hard to see that happening.
Mr Hammond has also got it in the neck this week after a terribly unfortunate television interview in which he claimed there were no unemployed people. It's unbel…
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MPs vote that animals feel no pain or emotions

Why did people vote to leave the European Union? For many it was much to do with the vast amount of money they believed we paid over to Europe each year for little perceived return. For others it was all about a wish to cull the numbers of immigrants coming to live in our country.
Whilst there were plenty who were sold the dream of British sovereignty after Brexit - that we would be 'great' again once we took back control of our own laws.
Well MPs are currently discussing the EU Withdrawal Bill, which will set out which EU laws we wish to incorporate into UK law post-Brexit and which EU laws we can afford to discard. And on the basis we are a perceived nation of animal lovers I would argue that the decision to ditch the EU's 'animal sentience' law, which recognises that animals feel pain and emotion, falls very far below the mark of making Britain great again. In fact it is an absolute disgrace as it opens the door wide to animal cruelty.
A total of 313 MPs voted …

The first female is appointed Black Rod but is this really progress for women?

Sarah Clarke, the former director of Wimbledon tennis championships, is set to become the first female Black Rod.
Ms Clarke's appointment to the ceremonial parliamentary position breaks a 669-year history of having men in the role. She will formally be known as Lady Usher of the Black Rod and will take over early next year from David Leakey, who has been Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod since 2011.
Black Rod originates from a role created in 1348 by Edward III to guard the door outside meetings of his advisory council but now comes with much wider responsibilities. The post is most visible at the annual state opening of parliament when Black Rod is sent from the Lords to the House of Commons to summon MPs to hear the Queen's Speech.
The ceremony involves the door to the Commons being slammed in Black Rod's face. Black Rod uses his staff to knock three times on the door and gain admittance. The senior role now also involves organising other ceremonial events and responsi…

The week we found out Theresa May's school can't afford pens

There has been no escaping Brexit news this week. The sixth round of talks began in Parliament on Tuesday and will continue throughout the next month and I think we can safely conclude at the end of this week of discussions our way forward is still hazy at best.
Either Britain is a fantastic negotiator and the perception they have no idea what they are doing is all a cunning rouse or perhaps, more likely, Prime Minister Theresa May and her Brexit cronies are still trying to wing it.
It did look quite positive earlier in the week when Brexit Secretary David Davis said he was confident we would meet the two week deadline set by the EU to give clarification on the financial commitments Britain was willing to honour. In the mode of a teenager with a coursework deadline looming it appeared the pressure of having to get the work done had motivated the government to knuckle down.
Even Manfred Weber, the German leader of the European People's Party and arguably one of the most diffic…

This week's must-have purchase is the leather beret – perfect for Brexit mutineers

So there I was puzzling away to myself how to sell to you all the 2017 winter hat trend, the leather beret, when I stumbled across a bit of information from my Parliamentary insider that the Brexit mutineers were looking for team head wear. And there you have it – the leather beret could not be any more fitting.
The leather beret is the hat to be seen in this winter according to those in the fashion know. It first made its début down the catwalk of Christian Dior earlier this year as it sat astride the loose tousled waves of every single model.
And this wasn’t meant to be any kind of throwaway fashion moment but more of a political one. Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chivri said she wanted to give a nod to the hat's revolutionary roots. She wanted it to represent a generation of women wanting to make a stand.
It turned out there was something prophetical about these words as Dior's show came several months before the Weinstein sex scandal reared its ugly head and women a…

University Challenge may always be an unwelcoming arena to women but it's nothing to do with them not being intelligent enough

Tune into any episode of University Challenge and you may well find yourself playing a game of 'spot the female contestant'. It is a well-known fact that women, despite making up over half the population of most universities, do not enjoy the same proportional representation on the long-running BBC university quiz.
This very issue found itself back in the news this week when the Daily Telegraph ran a story on Wadham College Oxford having to shelve plans for a gender-balanced University Challenge team because they feared it would be sub-standard.
The college ran female-only trials in the hope that women would feel more confident in applying. However, they found that still very few women came forward and those that did failed to score highly.
Wadham were faced with either putting forward a 'sub-standard team', which they feared would not only reflect badly on the college but also on the women themselves, or field an all-male team of the highest scoring competitors inste…

MP's vote on Brexit is a 'con', Johnson's apology a sop, but Theresa May's condemnation of Russia was a triumph

It has been called a 'staggering climbdown' by some but the truth of the matter is, the Government's 11th hour decision to allow Parliament a vote on the Brexit deal is just another example of Tory trickery.
David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, announced yesterday (Monday) that the final Brexit Withdrawal Bill would be presented to the House of Commons as an Act of Parliament which could be voted on in good time before we leave the European Union.
This was initially seen as a major victory on the part of Labour MPs and Tory rebels who have been calling for several months for Parliament to have their say on the Brexit deal. Davis had previously said there would not be an opportunity for MPs to vote as they anticipated work on the deal would be going on until the last minute before exiting.
But alas the devil is always in the detail and it quickly emerged that whilst MPs will be able to vote on the deal, they will not be able to have any say in the case of a no deal Brexit – …