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Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week

Some 150,000 British travellers were stranded when the National Air Traffic Services stopped all flights from 15 April because of a cloud of fine volcanic ash drifting from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland.

21 April 2010

12:00 AM

21 April 2010

12:00 AM

Some 150,000 British travellers were stranded when the National Air Traffic Services stopped all flights from 15 April because of a cloud of fine volcanic ash drifting from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland.

Some 150,000 British travellers were stranded when the National Air Traffic Services stopped all flights from 15 April because of a cloud of fine volcanic ash drifting from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. It was feared that the glassy particles would melt in jet engines, causing them to fail. The name of the volcano was very seldom heard on British media because it was hard to pronounce. No aeroplanes flew over Europe from the Pyrenees to the Arctic. The quietness was widely noted. British Airways said the flight ban was costing it £15 million to £20 million a day. The airline sent up a test flight of a Boeing 747 and declared that ‘blanket restrictions on airspace are unnecessary’; but they continued. Suddenly, after six days, the ban was lifted after talks between the government and the Civil Aviation Authority. ‘Manufacturers have now agreed increased tolerance levels in low ash density areas,’ the CAA said. Mr Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, had sent HMS Albion to Santander in Spain to pick up 580 soldiers returning home from Afghanistan, and there was room only for another 250 ‘vulnerable’ civilians. HMS Ocean and HMS Ark Royal were sent towards the Channel ports, but were not used. ‘We’re putting on coaches from Madrid,’ Mr Brown had said on Monday. ‘There’s 100 already there in Madrid to do it.’ But they were not to be seen.


The general election campaign was transformed when Mr Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was judged to have won the first of three televised debates. The 90-minute debate, on ITV, with no advertisement breaks, was watched by 9.9 million, dropping to 9.3 million by the end. During it, Mr Brown repeatedly declared: ‘I agree with Nick.’ Mr Brown said: ‘You’re going to take one billion at least out of the schools this year.’ Mr David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative party, replied: ‘It’s simply not true.’ Mr Clegg said: ‘The more they attack each other, the more they sound exactly the same.’ Mr Cameron said he had met a 40-year-old black man in Plymouth who had come to England at the age of six and spent 30 years in the Navy but was ashamed of the out-of-control immigration system. Mr Clegg said: ‘Let’s have a regional approach where you only make sure the immigrants who come go to those regions where they can be supported.’ Mr Brown said: ‘Illegal immigrants are deterred because we’ve got ID cards for foreign nationals.’ A YouGov poll for the Sun, carried out on Saturday and Sunday, put the Liberal Democrats at 33 per cent, one point ahead of the Conservatives, with Labour in third place at 26 per cent. The pattern persisted. The annual rate of inflation measured by the consumer price index rose from 3 per cent in February to 3.4 per cent in March. Unemployment rose to 2.5 million. An inquest in Bristol heard that a tenant in sheltered accommodation hid the body of a friend under a sofa for 10 years because he feared its discovery might lead to his eviction.

Heads of state were prevented by the ash cloud from attending the funeral of President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, who were buried at the Wawel cathedral in Krakow, among kings and national heroes. President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia came to the cathedral in a low-flying propeller aeroplane. The rate at which Greece had to borrow money rose to a record 7.6 per cent because European officials were prevented by the flight ban from meeting to arrange a lower rate. The flight ban prevented more than 3,000 tons of flowers from being exported from Kenya. Nissan suspended some production of vehicles in Japan because it could not import essential parts from Ireland by air.

The International Monetary Fund proposed two new taxes on financial institutions: a ‘financial stability contribution’ and a financial activities tax (Fat) on profits and remunerations together. The Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States issued civil charges against Goldman Sachs alleging it had defrauded investors during the subprime housing crisis. The bank’s net earnings rose to $3.46 billion for the first quarter of 2010, from $1.8 billion a year earlier. In London the Financial Services Authority announced a formal enforcement investigation into Goldman’s activities. China’s annual rate of growth rose to 11.9 per cent for the first quarter of 2010. The number of people killed in the earthquake in the Qinghai province of China rose to more than 2,000. The Pope visited Malta. President Barack Obama outlined plans to send astronauts to an asteroid by the mid-2030s and then to Mars. Mr Obama was found to have played golf 32 times since his election; Mr George Bush, his predecessor, played golf only 24 times in his whole presidency. CSH


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