Wages rose quicker than inflation in the first quarter of 2018, at an annual rate of 2.9 per cent, against 2.7 per cent rate for inflation. Unemployment fell to 1.42 million — at 4.2 per cent the lowest level since 1975. BT said it would cut 13,000 jobs over three years, about 12 per cent of its workforce, to save £1.5 billion. Network Rail surveyed 10 million trees by drone to see how many it might cut down. Plans were approved for a Silvertown road tunnel linking the Royal Docks north of the Thames with the Greenwich peninsula south of the river. Meghan Markle’s father, a bankrupt living in Mexico, felt unwell on the eve of her wedding to Prince Harry.
The government said it would publish a white paper on Brexit before the EU summit next month. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, invited all the Conservative backbenchers to No. 10 Downing Street in batches to see a slide-show about two options on which the cabinet was split: a customs partnership with the EU or maximum facilitation (max fac) replacing border checks with technological monitoring. The chief of staff at No. 10, Gavin Barwell, told them neither would work ‘in its current form’. Standing on a platform in a rice factory in Rainham, Essex, David Miliband, the former Labour foreign secretary, Sir Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader, and Nicky Morgan, the former Conservative minister, urged Parliament to keep Britain in a customs union and the EU’s single market. WHSmith apologised for selling toothpaste normally priced at £2.49 for £7.99 at a hospital in Wakefield, Yorkshire.
The government went back on its promise in last year’s manifesto to remove the cap that stops faith-based free schools allocating more than 50 per cent of places on grounds of religion. Instead, local authorities might create new ‘voluntary aided’ faith schools. Grammar schools could expand by applying for money from a £50 million fund. The government apologised to Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, his wife (who was awarded £500,000), for the ‘appalling treatment’ they received when held by the Libyans under Colonel Gaddafi, after British intelligence enabled the United States to have the couple abducted in Thailand and flown there in 2004. Baroness Jowell, who, as Tessa Jowell, was a Labour minister, died, aged 70; she won admiration for a speech in the Lords about brain cancer when she was gravely sick. George Osborne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, discovered that he is Jewish, through his maternal grandmother.
On the day that a small interim United States embassy opened inside the existing US consulate building in Jerusalem, at least 58 Palestinians were shot dead and 2,700 wounded by Israeli troops when 40,000 Palestinians took part in action to breach the Gaza Strip security fence at 13 locations, a day before the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Israeli state. Israel had earlier launched air strikes on Iranian infrastructure in Syria, in response to an Iranian rocket attack on the Golan Heights. Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision Song Contest for Israel with the song ‘Toy’. Tom Wolfe, the author of The Bonfire of the Vanities, died aged 88.
A family of six, including girls aged 12 and nine, took bombs to an Indonesian Christian and a Catholic church in Surabaya, Indonesia, and detonated them, killing at least 13. The next day, a family of five riding on two motorbikes blew up a police station; an eight-year-old girl survived that attack. The bodies of 20 Coptic Christians beheaded by Islamists on a beach in Libya in 2015 were returned to Egypt, where they are recognised as martyr saints.
North Korea said it might not hold a meeting with President Donald Trump of the United States after all if America insisted it should give up its nuclear weapons. In Iraq, the group led by Moqtada al-Sadr, a nationalist Shia cleric in alliance with the Communist party, won the biggest share of votes in elections, with Hadi al-Ameri, the Iranian-backed leader of Shia militia groups in Iraq, coming second and Haider al-Abadi, the American-backed prime minister, third. In Italy, which held elections on 4 March, the Five Star Movement and the League considered a coalition. Quim Torra was sworn in as president of the regional parliament of Catalonia. The co-pilot of a Sichuan Airlines flight was saved by his seatbelt from being sucked out of the cockpit when the windscreen of an Airbus A319 blew out at 32,000 feet. CSH