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Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week

2 June 2012

3:00 PM

2 June 2012

3:00 PM

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The government revised plans announced in the Budget to put VAT on warm Cornish pasties and supermarket rotisserie food, and reduced the proposed 20 per cent VAT on static caravans to 5 per cent. It launched an £82 million scheme to lend money (typically £2,500) to people aged between 18 and 24 who want to start a business. Baroness Warsi, the co-chairman of the Conservative party, referred herself to the Lords commissioner for standards after newspapers alleged that she claimed accommodation allowance while staying with a friend rent-free. A government internet service for people to discover how much income tax they pay broke down on its first day. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said he would rather ‘die in a ditch’ than allow a third runway at Heathrow.

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Abu Qatada, the extremist Muslim cleric, is to remain in prison until an appeal against his deportation is heard in October, after Mr Justice Mitting decided that allowing him bail during the heightened security of the Olympic Games would be ‘exceptionally problematic’. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, lost his appeal to the Supreme Court against extradition to Sweden on a charge of rape. The government dropped proposals for inquests involving sensitive intelligence to be held behind closed doors; but it persevered with plans to allow judges in civil cases to decide to hear in camera evidence regarding national security. A woman was jailed for 21 weeks for shouting, ‘You Africans take our council flats’ and other racial abuse on a London Underground train; her seven-minute rant had become a hit on YouTube.

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‘It was a relationship about power,’ Tony Blair, a former prime minister, told the Leveson inquiry into media standards about his dealings with Rupert Murdoch. ‘I would not have been godfather to one of his children on the basis of my relationship in office,’ he added. Someone called Wu Bangguo, an important Chinese politician, cancelled his visit to Britain because David Cameron had met the Dalai Lama in London in May. A woman twice seen at an accident and emergency department in Kent died in a London hospital of rabies from the bite of a dog in South Asia.

Abroad

Spain found it increasingly difficult to fund its deficit when Bankia, formed in 2010 from regional savings banks, asked the government for €19 billion. Billions were also required by other banks, some of which contemplated a merger. A 12-carat pink diamond was auctioned in Hong Kong for US$17.4 million. Danish police arrested two brothers with suspected links to a militant Islamist group in Somalia. A new earthquake of magnitude 5.8 killed 15 people in the Emilia region in northern Italy, where an earthquake had killed seven people ten days earlier. Rats gnawed through a cable powering a fountain in Hamelin.

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After 108 people, including at least 49 children, were massacred at Houla in Syria, the UN Security Council unanimously called on the government to withdraw its heavy weaponry from residential areas. The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands expelled Syrian diplomats. Most of the deaths seemed to be from militiamen on the government side going into homes. Maj-Gen Robert Mood, the head of the UN mission in Syria, had called the deaths ‘indiscriminate and unforgivable’. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said: ‘We are dealing with a situation in which both sides evidently had a hand.’ MPs in the parliament of Ukraine had a punch-up during a debate on the status of the Russian language.

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Computer malware, known as Flame, had been gathering sensitive information from countries including Iran since August 2010, according to investigations by Russian and UN researchers; the country behind the cyber attack is unknown. In the Egyptian presidential elections, Mohammed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate is to face Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister, in a second round of voting on 16 and 17 June. Talks on Iranian nuclear programmes held in Baghdad with Catherine Ashton on behalf of the European Union ended with a decision to meet again in Moscow. A vast radio telescope is to be built on sites in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand: fields of antennae will have total surface of a square kilometre. Beijing’s city council published a decree that no public lavatory should have more than two flies. CSH


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