January. Twelve countries of the European Union adopted the euro as their common currency. Lord Birt was asked by Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, to draw up a report on transport. Rail fares went up and drivers went on strike. Connex South-East found it could get more passengers on trains by abolishing lavatories. Peggy Lee, the singer, died, aged 81. America flew al-Qa’eda and Taleban prisoners to a camp at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba. India and Pakistan stood on the brink of war. A Home Office report found that in London (where 8 per cent are black) 70 per cent of mobile-telephone thefts were carried out by blacks.
February. Lord Wakeham, a non-executive director of Enron, the bankrupt American energy company, stepped ‘aside’ from his post as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission while retaining his £156,000 salary. Mr Blair commended to Mr Adrian Nastase, the Prime Minister of Romania, a bid to buy its steel company by Mr Lakshmi Mittal, who had given £125,000 to the Labour party. Slobodan Milosevic, the former President of Serbia, went on trial in The Hague. Princess Margaret died, aged 71. The world’s oldest captive penguin died, aged 42, in Nagasaki.
March. The government sold the last 365 tons of the gold it was clearing from British reserves. Zimbabwe was suspended from the counsels of the Commonwealth after its presidential elections were found not to have been free and fair. The Queen Mother died, aged 101. Gareth Gates, aged 17, reached No. 1 with his version of ‘Unchained Melody’, with which Jimmy Young got to No. 1 in 1955.
April. The Queen Mother was buried in the same vault in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, as her husband, King George VI. Mr Blair flew to Texas to meet President Bush, who called for ‘regime change’ in Iraq. Israel suffered a series of suicide bombings and in response arrested many Palestinians in Jenin, losing 13 men and killing dozens; it occupied Palestinian towns, including Bethlehem, where Palestinians took refuge in the Basilica of the Nativity; and it surrounded the headquarters in Ramallah of President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. Billy Wilder, the film director, died, aged 95. The National Lottery renamed its main draw ‘Lotto’.
May. Mr Stephen Byers resigned as Secretary of State for Transport. Seven people died in a train crash at Potter’s Bar. Mr Stuart Drummond, best known for dressing as a monkey at Hartlepool football games, was elected the town’s mayor. Hundreds of Millwall fans rioted outside their ground, injuring 50 police and 26 horses. Pim Fortuyn, the homosexual anti-immigration Dutch politician, was shot dead. Lady Castle of Blackburn died, aged 91. It was found that the serial numbers on the new £5 note rubbed off.
June. Brian May played the guitar on top of Buckingham Palace at the opening of celebrations for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. She drove in the gold state coach to St Paul’s, and the Mall was filled with cheering crowds as she thrice appeared on the balcony of the palace. Sir Michael Willcocks, Black Rod, stood by the reports in The Spectator and elsewhere that he had come under ‘sustained and constant pressure’ from Downing Street to allow the Prime Minister a more prominent part at the Queen Mother’s lying-in-state. WorldCom, the American telecommunications giant, admitted to a $3.8 billion hole in its accounts. India and Pakistan almost went to war over Kashmir again. Mr Jacques Chirac was re-elected as President of France. The Pope canonised Padre Pio. Gondoliers blocked the Grand Canal in Venice in protest against immigration.
July. Morocco invaded a tiny uninhabited island called Perejil (‘parsley’) that Spain regards as its own; after five days, Spanish commandos reoccupied it. A million British public employees held a one-day strike. More than 250,000 people flocked to Brighton beach where Fatboy Slim played records; two died. A report by Dame Janet Smith named 215 people who had been murdered by Dr Harold Shipman, who is in prison. Leo McKern, the actor, died, aged 82. Dr Rowan Williams was named as 104th Archbishop of Canterbury. Seven people were killed by hailstones in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou. The FT-SE index fell below 4000.
August. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe told 2,900 white farmers to give up their land. Ian Huntley, a school caretaker, was charged with the murder of two ten-year-old girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. Deputy commissioner Ian Blair of the Metropolitan Police said that officers who objected to the little cross on the crown on the badges on their helmets would be allowed modified insignia. Abu Nidal, the international terrorist of the 1970s and 1980s, died in Baghdad, aged 65. The average price of a pint of beer in the south-east of England rose above £2.
September. Mr Blair discussed Iraq with President Bush at Camp David and on his return said, ‘Should the will of the UN be ignored, action will follow.’ Later the government published a dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Mrs Edwina Currie revealed that she had had an affair with Mr John Major between 1984 and 1988. The Countryside Alliance counted 407,791 supporters on its march through London. British Energy, the nuclear power company, was given government guarantees of £410 million to stop it going bust. Many children had to be sent home from school because the Criminal Records Bureau still had not vetted thousands of teachers under new procedures.
October. Bombs at Kuta beach in Bali killed nearly 200, many of them Australian. A French supertanker, the Limburg, was holed by a terrorist bomb off Yemen. More than 100 hostages died when Russian troops stormed a theatre where 800 had been taken captive by Chechen terrorists. A sniper with a rifle shot dead ten people over a fortnight in Washington DC. Elizabeth Longford, the historian, died, aged 96. Mrs Theresa May, the Tory party chairman, said at their conference that the Conservatives were reputedly ‘the nasty party’. Miss Estelle Morris resigned as Secretary of State for Education. In a referendum all 11,445,638 of Iraqis eligible voted for President Saddam Hussein to stay in power.
November. Mr Iain Duncan Smith told the Tories, ‘My message is simple, unite or die.’ Mr Paul Burrell, a butler to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was found not guilty of stealing 310 items of her property when the Queen intervened with memories of a conversation he had had with her. Firemen went on strike. Lonnie Donegan, the skiffle player, died, aged 71. Gibraltarians voted by 17,900 to 187 to stay British. Mr Ariel Sharon beat Mr Binyamin Netanyahu to the Likud candidature for the prime ministership at elections to be held on 28 January. In Turkey the AK party, backed by Muslims, won the elections.
December. Ten more countries joined the European Union. Mr Harold Brown, a butler employed by members of the royal family, was found not guilty of stealing a silver model dhow given by the Emir of Bahrain as a wedding present to the Prince and Princess of Wales. Mrs Cherie Blair got into a fine mess after a conman friend of a friend helped her in the buying of two flats in Bristol. The firemen called off their strikes. Authorities in Edinburgh and Bedfordshire prohibited the filming by parents of nativity plays lest the pictures fell into the hands of paedophiles.