The British economy grew by 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, the slowest quarterly growth for two years. The Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out many absurdities in party election promises, noting that most people would see tax and benefit changes that reduced their income; it said that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat plan to increase the personal allowance to £12,500 would not help the 44 per cent of people who now pay no tax, that Labour’s promised 10p tax band would be ‘worth a princely 50 pence a week to most income-tax payers’ and that it could not be sure whether the reintroduction of a 50p rate for high earners would raise any extra money for the Treasury. A trial for handling stolen goods was stopped when it was discovered that Cumbria police had mistakenly sold the bicycle in question.
Opinion polls showed the two largest parties still close, as they had been all year, the Lib Dems not much changed and Ukip down a touch. In Scotland, the Scottish National Party gained more than 50 per cent support in opinion polls, which could leave Labour and the Liberal Democrats with one seat each there out of 59, and the Conservatives with none. ‘I really feel so passionately about this election,’ shouted David Cameron, the Conservative leader, in a speech made with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up, declaring that seeing entrepreneurs start new businesses ‘really pumps me up’. In this condition he announced that he would pass a law forbidding himself from raising income tax, national insurance or VAT. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, put on a Cockney accent to be interviewed by the comedian Russell Brand on his YouTube channel. An Egyptian court sentenced Mike Coupe, the chief executive of Sainsbury’s, in absentia to two years’ imprisonment on strange charges of seizing cheques.
Len Blavatnik, the owner of Warner Music, was said to be the richest of Britain’s 117 billionaires, with a fortune of £13.2 billion. Richard West, the journalist and writer, a regular contributor to The Spectator, died, aged 84. The ventriloquist Keith Harris, who performed with Orville, a green duck wearing a nappy, died, aged 67. Kensington and Chelsea council told a woman who had painted her house with red stripes to repaint it. On the daytime television game Countdown, Myleene Klass made an eight-letter word, gobshite.
Nepal was hit by an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude which killed more than 5,000. Many more were left without shelter, water and food. The earthquake set off avalanches on Mount Everest that killed 18 climbers. British Army Gurkhas were among those who brought aid. It was hard to reach isolated villages. In Afghanistan, a landslide swept through a village in Khawahan district, killing at least 52.
Iran seized the MV Maersk Tigris, registered in the Marshall Islands, in the Straits of Hormuz. The Finnish navy dropped depth charges near Helsinki to warn off a suspected submarine. A Spanish ferry from Mallorca to Valencia caught fire and 150 passengers abandoned ship. A Portuguese court awarded the parents of the missing child Madeleine McCann damages of £357,000 in a libel case against a former police chief, Gonçalo Amaral. With 1.97 million acres, China overtook France to become the country with the largest area of vineyards after Spain’s 2.52 million acres. The Greek tourist board in London advised tourists to take cash and not to rely on credit cards, since cash machines might be switched off in the financial crisis.
A week’s curfew was imposed in Baltimore and thousands of police and troops sent in, after a night when people looted stores and set fire to 100 cars and 15 buildings, following the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, who had been arrested and suffered damage to his spinal cord. Russian hackers read unclassified but sensitive emails from President Barack Obama of the United States last year, the New York Times reported. Fighting continued at Donetsk and near Mariupol in Ukraine. The al-Nusra Front, affiliated to al-Qaeda, took Jisr al-Shughur, the last important town in Idlib province still controlled by the Syrian government. King Salman of Saudi Arabia named as crown prince his nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Interior Minister. Saudi Arabia said it had arrested 93 people this year suspected of belonging to the Islamic State movement, five of them foreigners. Eight convicted drug smugglers were executed by firing squad in Indonesia, and a woman from the Philippines was reprieved. CSH