Abu Qatada, wanted in Jordan on terrorism charges, was held in prison in England again, two months after his release from prison, and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said he would be deported to Jordan, although ‘deportation may still take time’. Abdel Hakim Belhadj, a Libyan commander, sued Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, alleging that he was instrumental in his arrest by US agents who sent him into the clutches of the late Colonel Gaddafi. Charities campaigned against the plans by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to limit tax relief on big donations to £50,000 or a quarter of the donor’s income, whichever the higher. Seventeen counties, south and east of a line from Scarborough to the Bristol Channel, were added to those deemed to be suffering from drought. Neptune Collonges won the Grand National by a nose in a race that saw two horses put down after falling.
A Department of Energy report into fracking, the shale-gas extraction technique that caused two small earthquakes near Blackpool, said that it should go ahead, and would be expected to cause no bigger earthquakes than coalmining. Mark Carney, the governor of Canada’s central bank, has, according to the Financial Times, been sounded out as a replacement for Sir Mervyn King when he retires as Governor of the Bank of England next year. Aquascutum, founded in 1851, went into administration. Jaeger, founded in 1884, was sold to Better Capital, which last month bought the double-glazing company Everest. Marks & Spencer sales fell a little after it ran out of knitwear during a cold spell in February. Unemployment fell by 35,000 to 2.65 million. The annual rate of inflation rose to 3.5 per cent (measured by the CPI) from 3.4 in February, but fell to 3.6 per cent (measured by the RPI) from 3.7 in February. The Stonyhurst Gospel, a codex of St John’s Gospel once buried with St Cuthbert, who died in 687, was sold by the British Jesuits to the British Library for £9 million.
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, welcomed an investigation by the Chinese authorities into the death of Neil Heywood, the British businessman found dead in a hotel room in Chongqing last November. The authorities had said he had died of ‘excessive alcohol consumption’; unconfirmed reports are now circulating that he was poisoned with cyanide. Gu Kailai, the wife of Bo Xilai, a leading Communist Party politician, has now been accused of his murder and imprisoned. Mr Bo, who had been expected to rise high at the party congress this year, was suspended from the politburo. Labour suspended Lord Ahmed from the party after a newspaper in Pakistan reported that he had called there for a £10 million bounty for the capture of President Barack Obama of the United States and the former President George W. Bush; lord Ahmed called this ‘lies’.
The first six of 30 United Nations observers entered Syria to monitor a ceasefire, but 25 people were said to have been killed in one day at Homs alone, where government shelling continued. Talks were held between Iran and world powers in Istanbul. Concerted attacks by the Taleban in Kabul and other cities in eastern Afghanistan left 36 attackers dead, along with 11 members of the Afghan security forces and four civilians. An Egyptian electoral commission disqualified 10 candidates for the presidency, including the Khairat al-Shater, the first choice of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief. The 104 villagers of Fucking, in Austria, voted on whether to change its name.
North Korea launched a test rocket over the Yellow Sea, but it blew up. Ten South Korean warships spent three days searching for fragments but failed to find any. Jim Yong Kim, a former president of Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, was named as the next president of the World Bank. Argentina seized its biggest oil company, YPF, in which the Spanish group Repsol was the majority shareholder. The Spanish government threatened to seize control of the budgets of 17 regions if they ran up higher deficits. The king of Spain broke his hip on a trip to Botswana to shoot elephants.
One of three lay judges on the panel hearing the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, who admits killing 77 people in Norway last July, was dismissed for having said on a social networking site that he should face the death penalty. Breivik’s testimony was prohibited from being broadcast on television. Anthony Hensley, 37, drowned after a swan overturned his kayak in a pond in Cook County, Illinois. CSH
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated April 21, 2012