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Portrait of the week

Portrait of the year

15 December 2012

9:00 AM

15 December 2012

9:00 AM


Britain’s public debt rose above £1,000 billion for the first time. Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, was stripped of his knighthood. The High Speed 2 rail link between London and Birmingham was given the go-ahead. Police removed protestors’ tents in Parliament Square under a new act. Abu Qatada won an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against deportation to Jordan. In Syria protestors continued to be killed. In Saudi Arabia 28,000 women applied for jobs in lingerie shops, in which only men could previously serve.


The High Court ruled that prayers said at meetings of Bideford council were unlawful. Police removed tents from a protest camp at St Paul’s, set up on 15 October. The Greek government held endless talks with the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to avoid financial meltdown. Syrian forces attacked Homs. Scientists in Russia propagated narrow-leafed campion from fruits buried by Arctic ground squirrels 32,000 years ago.


Leaders of EU countries, apart from Britain and the Czech Republic, signed a fiscal compact requiring incorporation of balanced budgets into law. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, admitted that he had ridden a horse called Raisa, lent by the Metropolitan Police to Rebekah Brooks when she was editor of the Sun; it had since died. Dr Rowan Williams announced his resignation as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the year. Thousands of refugees fled Syria. Vladimir Putin was elected President of Russia. George Galloway won Bradford West for the Respect party. Engelbert Humperdinck, aged 75, was chosen to represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest, in Azerbaijan. Venus came very close to Jupiter.


First-class stamps went up from 46p to 60p. Queues built up at passport desks run by the Border Agency at Heathrow airport. Islamist rebels in Mali took control of Timbuktu. In Bahrain thousands demonstrated against the rule of a Sunni monarchy over a Shia majority. UN observers monitored a Syrian ceasefire, but killing continued. In Britain, April proved the wettest for a century, but hosepipe bans were kept in force. An attempt by Dull, Perthshire, to forge ties with Boring, Oregon, met with little interest.


Boris Johnson was re-elected Mayor of London. In local elections, the Liberal Democrat candidate at Edinburgh Pentland polled fewer votes than Professor Pongoo, dressed as a penguin. Eight men of Pakistani background and an Afghan were convicted of running a child sex ring at Heywood, Lancashire. The government amended a Budget decision to put VAT on warm Cornish pasties. François Hollande, the Socialist leader, beat Nicolas Sarkozy to become President of France. Spain bailed out Bankia, its third biggest bank. In Syria 108 were massacred at Houla. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted for his part in blowing up the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, died, aged 60, three years after his release on compassionate grounds. Beijing published a decree that no public lavatory should have more than two flies.


The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was marked by a pageant of 1,000 boats on the Thames in the rain, witnessed by a million, but crassly covered by BBC television. The Queen visited Northern Ireland and shook hands with Martin McGuinness. The Duke of Edinburgh spent five days in hospital. The Church of England opposed government plans for gay marriage. A computer failure cut off millions of customers of RBS and NatWest from their money. A hoard of coins from the first century bc weighing 15cwt was found in Jersey. After re-run elections, Antonis Samaras of New Democracy became Prime Minister of Greece. Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, won Egypt’s presidential election. Yitzhak Shamir, twice prime minister of Israel, died, aged 96. An extra second was added to 30 June to synchronise the clock and the rotation of the Earth.


The Olympics opened with a loud ceremony in which the Queen co-operated by making a film sequence with Daniel Craig in the character of James Bond; 4,700 troops covered security deficiencies. The government dropped a bill to reform the House of Lords after dozens of Conservative MPs rebelled. Bob Diamond resigned as chief executive of Barclays in an imbroglio over the fixing of the Libor rate. Scientists of the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire said they had found traces of the Higgs boson.


The Olympic Games cheered the nation, with Britain coming third in the medal tables after the United States and China. Great interest in the Paralympic Games followed. Photographs were published of Prince Harry in a Las Vegas hotel with a woman wearing no clothes. The Duke of Edinburgh spent another five nights in hospital. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. In Syria fighting continued. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, died, aged 82. Three members of Pussy Riot, the anti-Putin protest group, who sang a blasphemous song in the cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, were jailed for two years.


The nation discussed what Andrew Mitchell, the new chief whip, said when a police officer told him to wheel his bicycle out of Downing Street. Four burglars broke into a house near Melton Mowbray and police arrested the householder who had wounded two with shotgun pellets. It proved the wettest summer since 1912. A French court prohibited a magazine from republishing pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge topless. The UN said 20,000 people had been killed in Syria since March 2011. In Benghazi, the US ambassador was killed. The Revd Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, died, aged 92. Residents of Bulawayo were ordered to flush their lavatories all together to unblock the city’s sewers.


The gravestone of Sir Jimmy Savile was removed by night at his family’s request, as the Metropolitan Police said that he was ‘a predatory sex offender’. The working population rose to nearly 30 million, the highest ever. Abu Hamza and four others suspected of terrorism were extradited to the United States. The Home Secretary blocked the extradition of Gary McKinnon, suspected of hacking into government computers, to the United States. Andrew Mitchell resigned as chief whip. Thousands of Greeks protested against a visit to Athens by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. The coast around New York City was hit by the remains of Hurricane Sandy. Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia, 1941-55 and 1993-2004, died, aged 89.


Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States. Xi Jinping was chosen as the ruler of China. Israel bombed Gaza in response to rockets fired into Israel. Britain recognised the coalition of Syrian opposition forces, while civil war continued. General David Petraeus resigned as director of the CIA, citing an extramarital affair. Ash tree dieback spread in England. Lord Justice Leveson recommended a regulating body for the press governed by an Act of Parliament; David Cameron doubted the wisdom of such a law. George Entwistle resigned as director-general of the BBC after Newsnight falsely suggested that Lord McAlpine was a child abuser. Rotherham council took away three children from foster parents because they belonged to the UK Independence Party. Elections in England and Wales for police and crime commissioners saw a turnout of under 15 per cent. The General Synod of the Church of England voted against ordaining women bishops. A blindfolded child drew the name of the 118th Coptic pope. Rain swept England.


George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a wintry Autumn Statement, extended until 2018 austerity measures to reduce the deficit. David Cameron became very keen on gay marriage. The expectant Duchess of Cambridge spent time in hospital. The UN raised the Palestinians’ status to that of a ‘non-member observer state’. In the face of violent protest, President Morsi of Egypt annulled an autocratic decree he passed a month earlier. Sir Patrick Moore, the astronomer, died, aged 89. Two men from Essex were jailed for a year for selling a Henry Moore sculpture valued at £500,000 for scrap for £46. –CSH

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