- Ed Miliband's speech ruling out automatic EU referendum: Politics live blog
Andrew Sparrow’s rolling coverage of all the day’s political developments as they happen, including Ed Miliband’s speech on an EU referendum, Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman at PMQs and David Cameron’s speech to the Knesset in Israel
- MH370 search expands as third possible sighting adds to confusion
Officials suggest missing Malaysia Airlines flight may been spotted on military radar 200 miles north-west of Penang
The international hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 expanded to cover 27,000 square nautical miles on Wednesday as a third potential last sighting added to the confusion over its movements.
India became the 12th country to say it would join the search, indicating how far north the operation had been extended.
The plane was heading north-east to Beijing when it took off from Malaysia in the early hours of Saturday morning. Officials have said the plane may have turned around and headed back to Kuala Lumpur when it was lost.
On Wednesday, in a new twist to the mystery, officials suggested the plane may have been detected on military radar at 2.15am on Saturday, 200 miles north-west of Penang – a point which is not only west of the Malay peninsula, but so far north that it would be beyond the coast of Thailand. It was the third possible final time and location officials have given.
"We are not saying this is MH370. It's an unidentified plot," said air force chief Rodzali Daud at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian authorities are facing growing criticism about muddled and sometimes contradictory briefings.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters: "Right now there is a lot of information, and it's pretty chaotic, so up to this point we too have had difficulty confirming whether [detection over the strait of Malacca] is accurate or not."
Vietnamese officials had said they were calling off their air search and scaling back their sea search pending further information from Malaysia, but have since announced they will resume a full-scale search.
Malaysia's transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, told reporters: "With each day that passes, I fear search and rescue becomes just search – but we will never give up hope."
He insisted that authorities had been consistent and transparent, adding: "It is only confusion if you want it to be seen to be confusion."
He told reporters: "We have nothing to hide."
Five days after Beijing-bound MH370 disappeared not long after taking off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am on Saturday, questions regarding its final moments have if anything multiplied.
The last certain contact with the plane was at around 1.30am, when it was flying over the South China Sea, between Malaysia and Vietnam. Subsequent readings come from military radars which can detect civilian planes but do not communicate with them, meaning that they cannot identify a particular flight. It is not clear if these radar readings were cross-checked with other information.
On Tuesday it was reported that the Malaysian air force chief said the plane had been detected at 2.40am close to Pulau Perak, an island in the strait of Malacca – meaning it had not only turned back but flown right across the peninsula. Rodzali Daud subsequently denied making that comment, but it is not clear if the authorities are discounting the possible presence of MH370 over the strait or simply cannot confirm it.
Experts stress it is far too early to be certain what happened. If both the military radar spots are correct, then they could be consistent with the plane turning back and attempting to navigate back to Kuala Lumpur along the west coast of the peninsula.
Earlier on Wednesday, pressed by relatives of Chinese passengers on what information the military had given civil officials, the Malaysian government's envoy to China told them: "Now is not the time" to reveal it, Singapore's Straits Times reported.
He did disclose that the last words heard from the flight were: "All right, good night" – the crew's response to Malaysian air traffic controllers telling them the flight was entering Vietnamese airspace and that air traffic controllers from Ho Chi Minh City would take over management of their path.
Two-thirds of those on board the Boeing-777 were Chinese, and China has repeatedly urged Malaysia to speed up search efforts as well as sending a growing number of ships and aircraft to assist. It is under pressure as public concern grows about the state of the operation, and relatives have already vented their frustration at Chinese officials.
The Washington Post cited one popular post, which has been shared thousands of times by Chinese microbloggers: "Vietnam keeps discovering. Malaysia keeps denying. China keeps sending things on the way. Journalists keep waiting at the Lido hotel [where relatives are waiting]. Family members keep being in pain … But where is the plane?"
Malaysia Airlines has confirmed it received a warning from the Federal Aviation Administration in November, urging airlines to look out for corrosion under the skin of the fuselage of Boeing 777s.
Chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya added: "We ensure that all our aircraft are airworthy and comply with all the [circulars] issued by the manufacturers."
Experts have said the aircraft has a strong safety record.
- Chris Tarrant in hospital after mini-stroke
Manager says former Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? host was taken ill on flight from Bangkok to London
Chris Tarrant is recovering in hospital after suffering a mini-stroke.
His manager, Paul Vaughan, said he had been taken ill on a flight to London from Bangkok in Thailand on Saturday 1 March and was taken to Charing Cross hospital.
He said: "The doctors have confirmed he has had a mini-stroke, but he is made of stern stuff, Mr Tarrant, and hopefully he will be home by Thursday or Friday."
The 67-year-old broadcaster had been filming in Asia and South America before falling ill and Vaughan said he would not be going straight back to work after he is discharged.
He bowed out from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? last month after a decade and a half in which the quiz show became one of the most successful programmes in the world, inspiring spin-off games and Danny Boyle's hit film Slumdog Millionaire.
Tarrant first found fame hosting the ITV children's show Tiswas.
- Italian PM Matteo Renzi's electoral reform law clears first hurdle
Italy's lower house has approved the new prime minister's flagship constitutional change aimed at ending political gridlock
The lower house of the Italian parliament has approved the prime minister's flagship electoral reform law as the country edges towards a new voting system aimed at avoiding the political gridlock that paralysed it last year.
Matteo Renzi, 39, who ousted his predecessor and party rival Enrico Letta last month, is pursuing an ambitious series of constitutional changes. If passed, these would also see Italy's upper house of parliament transformed, and an entire layer of local government abolished.
After a stormy passage through the chamber of deputies that exposed the deep divisions within his own centre-left Democratic party (PD), the electoral reform bill was approved by 365 votes to 165 after a deal between Renzi and the centre-right leader, Silvio Berlusconi.
In a show of protest, MPs in Beppe Grillo's opposition Five Star movement held up pictures of Renzi and Berlusconi united by a red heart alongside the words "condemned to love". The deal also caused outrage among many in the PD.
But Renzi, Italy's youngest prime minister, was unrepentant. He welcomed the bill's approval on Twitter, declaring the move a 1-0 victory for politics over defeatism. "[Lower-chamber MPs] have shown that we really can change Italy," he wrote.
Renzi is also due to unveil a separate package of economic measures and tax cuts .
The champagne, however, will be kept on ice. Despite having been given the green light in one chamber, the bill now has to go to the senate for another lengthy, and probably even stormier, debate. That in itself is a clear indication, says Renzi, of the need for radical institutional reform.
Renzi says the new electoral law would prevent the re-election of a grand coalition by providing for a runoff in the event of no party or formation winning more than 37% of the vote.
It would also reduce the power of smaller parties, raising the thresholds below which a party will be unable to enter parliament.
Implementing a new voting system that prevents the reoccurrence of last year's damaging post-electoral deadlock has been a priority for Renzi since before he wrested power from Letta.
Thanks to an election that left the centre-left bloc with a majority in one house but not in the other, Italy was left without a government for over two months.
And when that government came, it was not destined to govern easily: the unwieldy big tent of centre-left, centrists and centre-right was for months hamstrung by the legal affairs of Berlusconi, convicted last August of tax fraud.
As it stands, however, the law applies only to the lower house. That's a considerable obstacle, given that it was the upper house that posed the real challenge in terms of governability. It is, writes the constitutional lawyer Michele Ainis in the Corriere della Sera on Wednesday, a "half-reform".
"A half-reform is not yet a reform," he warns, "especially not if this other half depends on the senate, the lions' den."
Renzi's answer to this conundrum is that there should be no senate, at least not in the form in which it now exists.
He wants to ditch Italy's inefficient system of 'perfect bicameralism', in which both houses of parliament have equal powers over the legislative process. Instead, the senate would be a chamber made up of local representatives with no power to pass or block legislation.
Although a concrete proposal is yet to come, it is expected to outline cutting the number of senators from more than 300 to around 160 – which brings the potential for protracted, incendiary debate.
Asked in an interview on the state broadcaster Rai on Sunday how he could be so sure current senators would effectively vote for their own dismissal, Renzi replied: "Because they are showing themselves to be people who are in line with the country; because they are showing themselves to be people who care more about Italy than they do about themselves.
"In politics there are also serious people, you know. We know that 1,000 politicians [the total number of MPs across both houses] is too much."
- Nine men arrested over cleaver attack on Hong Kong journalist
Police say two triad-connected suspects on Chinese mainland are among those arrested over attack on Kevin Lau
Nine men have been arrested in connection with a brutal attack on a veteran Hong Kong journalist that sparked concerns for press freedom in the Chinese city, police say.
Kevin Lau, a former editor of the liberal Ming Pao newspaper, was hacked with a cleaver in broad daylight last month by two men who then escaped on a motorbike.
The Hong Kong police commissioner Andy Tsang said two triad-connected suspects had been arrested on the Chinese mainland, while seven "accomplices" had been arrested by his force in several locations across the territory.
"We have been informed two were arrested in Guangdong [province] … by the mainland authorities," Tsang told reporters, adding that some of the seven arrested by Hong Kong police were also connected to triads.
Tsang said he believed mainland police had made the arrests in Dongguan, about 60 miles (100km) from the semi-autonomous region.
"The two suspected assailants, both aged 37, are Hong Kong residents and are believed to have a triad background," he said.
Tsang did not say when the arrests in China had been made, but said he was informed of them on 9 March. The seven in Hong Kong were arrested on Wednesday.
Lau remains in hospital following the assault on 26 February in which he was struck six times on the back and legs with a cleaver, leaving wounds including a 16cm (6in) gash.
The attack came weeks after Lau was removed from his position at the helm of the radical Ming Pao and replaced with an editor deemed to be pro-Beijing.
His removal triggered protests over media freedom with mounting concerns that Beijing is seeking to tighten control over the semi-autonomous region.
Tsang said on Wednesday that a motive had yet to be established and that no link had so far been made between Lau's journalism and the attack.
He added that an investigation was ongoing and that a request would be made to mainland authorities to return the two suspects to Hong Kong for questioning and trial.
"We will not rule out any motive. In this investigation, we will leave no stone unturned," he told a press conference, adding that further arrests might be made. He said he believed that whoever committed the crime could have been hired.
Lau's wife, Vivian Chan, said late on Wednesday following the police announcement that she still believed the attack was linked to her husband's work.
"If the truth is to be revealed as soon as possible I hope police can arrest the mastermind. Then we should know [if] the case is linked to his journalism," she told reporters.
Lau was moved out of intensive care and on to a private ward earlier this month. He remains in hospital and is currently unable to walk.
- Tony Blair 'offered to help Rebekah Brooks with appearance before MPs'
Phone-hacking trial hears of former prime minister's texts to then News International chief executive in the days before her arrest
Tony Blair offered to help Rebekah Brooks with her appearance at a parliamentary select committee just days after the News of the World closed and days before she was arrested, the phone-hacking trial has heard.
Blair texted Brooks to say that "everyone panics in these situations" after she told him she was "properly terrified" and that the "police are behaving so badly" in the crisis that hit News International following the disclosure that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked the week before.
The Commons select committee had summoned Brooks to appear to answer questions about the mounting crisis at News International following revelations that missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked.
Blair's exchanges with Brooks were made as leading members of the Labour party including Ed Miliband, Lord Prescott and Tom Watson were involved in a full-on assault against News International.
The exchange of texts was revealed by the prosecution on Wednesday during cross-examination of Brooks, who was being quizzed about two charges that she conspired to pervert the course of justice in the weeks that followed the closure of the News of the World.
The exchange shows that Blair and Brooks were almost in daily contact and often signed off texts with an "x".
The texts shown to the jury started on 10 July 2011 and finished on 17 July 2011, the day Brooks was arrested.
The court also heard on Wednesday that News International planned to invite Lord Mandelson, one of the former Labour prime minister's closest political allies, to "coach" Brooks for her select committee appearance.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC put it to Brooks that Blair had texted her in the week following the paper's closure in July 2011 "offering to help you with your forthcoming appearance in parliament".
Blair texted her to say if she was still going to appear at the Commons, she should call him. She replied "definitely", adding that it "depends on the police interview first".
In another text she said: "Feeling properly terrified. Police are behaving so badly."
Blair tried to reassure her, texting: "Everyone panics in these situations."
He added: "I'm no use on police stuff but call me after that because I may be of use on Commons."
The text exchange with Blair occurred in the week beginning 10 July, Edis said.
Brooks appeared before the Commons culture, media and sport select committee on 19 July, two days after her arrest, four days after her resignation and nine days after the News of the World closed.
She denies four charges that she conspired to hack phones, pervert the course of justice by working with others to conceal material from the police and to cause misconduct in public office by conspiring to pay public officials for stories.
The trial has previously heard that Blair advised Rebekah Brooks to launch a "Hutton-style" inquiry into the News of the World six days before her arrest as a suspect in the phone-hacking scandal.
She told her boss James Murdoch in an email written in July 2011, that he former prime minister had also offered to act as an "unofficial adviser" to her, Rupert and James Murdoch, but that "needs to be between us".
She said that Blair had suggested that News International set up an inquiry that would "publish a Hutton-style report" that would "clear you and accept short comings [sic]".
In the email, Brooks said the former prime minister told her to "tough up", advising her the crisis would pass and she should not make any rash short-term decisions. He also told her to "keep strong" and appeared to suggest she should take sleeping pills to keep a clear head.
The trial continues.