Ignore the flaws. For only Labour can beat the Tories. | Polly Toynbee

Osborne’s strategy will bring ideological shrink-the-state brutality. We need to stop this however we can

Margaret Drabble says Ed Miliband has lost her vote. Seeing her jump ship shocks me, as Drabble over many years has been one the great chroniclers of the condition of Britain, her novels filled with women’s struggles for fulfilment, wrestling to comprehend the social and political dysfunctions of our times. With fierce insight and intelligence, The Radiant Way captured the dismal spirit of 1980, as Margaret Thatcher tipped the scales against postwar welfare state optimism.

That’s why I am so saddened by her losing the plot, now, of all times, as we face a greater assault on the state than anything Thatcher dared try. A Conservative win would bring the brutish future laid out in George Osborne’s bone-chilling autumn statement. Drabble’s particular complaint is entirely reasonable: I agree with her on the puniness now, as before, of Labour policy on private schools. I’m sure we’d agree a score of issues where Labour policies look pusillanimous, hesitant or downright cowardly.

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Antonis Samaras brings forward date of presidential poll in Greece

Amid widespread discontent after five years of austerity, polls suggest the Syriza opposition party could easily win

The Greek government has announced that it will bring forward presidential elections.

The announcement of the high-stakes gamble that will make or break its survival was made only a few hours after lenders agreed on Monday to grant Greece a two-month extension of its financial rescue programme.

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Black Friday bargain hunters help lift UK retailers out of usual November lull

Online spending went up by 37.5% from last year, while total retail sales up 2.2% against same time in 2013

A Black Friday surge of spending by shoppers hunting for bargains online and in person gave all categories of retailing a boost last month.

The monthly snapshot of high street and internet consumer activity from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG found that the one-day promotional extravaganza lifted sales out of a normal November lull.

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