The High Speed 2 rail link between London and Birmingham is to go ahead, Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Transport, announced. The stretch to Birmingham would be completed by 2026, but a connection to Heathrow not until 2033, when the extensions to Manchester and Leeds would be finished. The cost of the project would be £32.7 billion. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said in a separate initiative that shareholders would be empowered to limit the pay of company executives. Bob Holness, one of the first presenters on Radio 2 from 1967 and later the presenter of the television game Blockbusters, died, aged 83.
Mr Cameron said he wanted Scotland to hold a binding referendum on independence earlier than 2014. The Scottish National Party insisted that all referendums are advisory and that the questions, not necessarily a yes-no choice, should be decided in Scotland. Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary, then told Parliament that it would be unconstitutional for a vote on independence to be held without the authority of the government of the United Kingdom. Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, said he’d still go ahead in the autumn of 2014. The Migration Advisory Committee, the government’s official advisers, said in a report that 160,000 British-born workers’ jobs had been displaced by non-EU immigration between 1995 and 2010. The body found on the Sandringham estate was identified as that of a missing Latvian, Alisa Dmitrijeva, aged 17, from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.
‘I have a very clear plan and I have set out very clear themes,’ Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour party declared after Lord Glasman, the founder of the Blue Labour group, had said that Labour seemed to have ‘no strategy, no narrative, and little energy’ under a leadership that ‘flickered rather than shone’. Mr Miliband called criticism of his leadership ‘noises off’ and made a speech in which he said that to win the next election Labour would be ‘a different party from the one we were in the past’. Mr Milband had earlier told Diane Abbott, the shadow public health minister, to apologise for tweeting: ‘White people love playing “divide & rule”.’ After saying that Ed Balls’s presence in the Commons chamber was like ‘having someone with Tourette’s permanently sitting opposite you’, David Cameron apologised ‘if I offended anyone’.
As protesters against the Syrian regime continued to be killed, President Bashir al-Assad said in a speech: ‘We will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders against the country.’ A team of 165 monitors from the Arab League, who arrived in December, remained in Syria. Bombs in Iraq targeting Shias killed 72 in one day, 14 on another. A court in Tehran sentenced an American, Amir Mirzai Hekmati, to death for ‘spreading corruption on earth and waging war against God’. In Tehran a nuclear scientist died when a bomb attached to his car exploded. The US Navy rescued 13 Iranian fishermen who had been captured by Somali pirates. One of Italy’s unelected ministers resigned because of a link with a corrupt businessman. The world price of orange juice reached a new high, after rising 25 per cent this year.
The British government warned tourists that a terrorist attack might be imminent in Kenya. A former US soldier, Craig Baxam, aged 24, was arrested in America on his return from Kenya and charged with trying to help al-Shabab, the Islamist terrorists in Somalia. Five died in Kano and one in Lagos during strikes against the raising of petrol prices in Nigeria. A woman was killed in a stampede to register for university places in Johannesburg. Eve Arnold, the photographer, died, aged 99. Erin Langworthy, aged 22, a tourist from Australia, made a bungee jump 360 feet above the Zambezi, but the rope broke; she survived with cuts and bruises after swimming ashore with her feet still tied together.
Mitt Romney, seeking the Republicans’ nomination as their presidential candidate, won the New Hampshire primary. Bill Daley, the White House chief of staff appointed a year ago, resigned; he will be replaced by Jacob Lew. In the first visit to Burma by a British foreign secretary for 55 years, William Hague asked its government to release political prisoners before British sanctions were removed. A report published in India found that 42 per cent of children under five there were malnourished. Eric Cantona, the former footballer, put himself forward as a candidate for the French presidency. CSH
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated January 14, 2012