Theresa May, the Home Secretary, blocked the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States, where he is suspected of having hacked into government computers. She told the Commons there was no doubt he had Asperger’s syndrome and suffered from depressive illness, and that there was a risk of suicide. Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, blocked the release of private letters that the Prince of Wales had sent to seven government departments. The Territorial Army would be renamed the Army Reserve and become an ‘integral part’ of the Army, Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary said. Five Royal Marines were charged with murder over an incident in Afghanistan in 2011 that concerned an insurgent but no civilians. The annual inflation rate, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, fell to 2.2 per cent in September, from 2.5 per cent in August. British Gas put up prices by 6 per cent.
Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, had his way in giving 16-year-olds the right to vote in a referendum on Scottish independence, but only one question will be put on the ballot, to be held in 2014. Banco Santander unexpectedly pulled out of a £1.65 billion deal to buy 316 branches of Royal Bank of Scotland as part of a European Union ruling on state bailouts. Virgin Money contacted RBS about the possibility of taking over the branches. Virgin Trains was asked to continue to run services on the West Coast Mainline for another nine months while the decision on the franchise to operate it is re-run. Tourism officials in Suffolk decided to brand it ‘The Curious County’.
Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker prize for the second time with the second book in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. A Marie Stopes clinic was due to open in Belfast and make abortions available within the law, which in Northern Ireland does not include the 1967 Act. The BBC said Dame Janet Smith, the former Appeal Court judge, would head an inquiry into whether BBC culture enabled Sir Jimmy Savile to carry out the sexual abuse of underage girls, and Nick Pollard would inquire into why a BBC Newsnight investigation into Savile was shelved. Constance Briscoe was suspended from the judiciary after being arrested and bailed. The concrete cows that have stood outside Milton Keynes since 1978 were repainted by an unknown hand overnight as skeletons.
The European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to transform Europe ‘from a continent of war to a continent of peace’. The Nobel prize for literature went to Mo Yan, an award welcomed by the Chinese government. Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia from 1941 until 2004, died, aged 89. The cycling team headed by Lance Armstrong ran a ‘sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme’, according to a report by the US Anti-Doping Agency. Paintings by Picasso, Monet, Gauguin and Lucian Freud were among seven stolen from the Kunsthal in Rotterdam.
In Syria, fighting claimed the lives of at least 210 people on one day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Turkey and Syria banned each other’s aircraft from their air space. President Mohammed Mursi of Egypt agreed to allow Abdel Maguid Mahmoud to keep his post as chief prosecutor despite his acquittal of officials accused of attacking protestors under Hosni Mubarak. From 14 January, Cuba is to remove the need for its citizens to obtain exit permits before travelling abroad. Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian, stepped from a balloon at 128,100 feet to become the first skydiver to go faster than the speed of sound, reaching 833.9 mph.
President Barack Obama of the United States was said by opinion polls to have won against Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, in the second of three television debates. Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, said Greece should have more time to meet the terms of its bailout, but Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, said: ‘We have to stick to what we announced.’ About 1,500 Brazilian police and commandos raided the northern Rio favelas of Jacarezinho and Manguinhos where crack cocaine is traded. A woman in Pessac, near Bordeaux, received a telephone bill for €11,721,000,000,000,000.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 20 October 2012