The Spectator

Portrait of the week

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Michael Howard remained the only candidate for the leadership of the Conservative party after a vote the week before of 90 to 75 against a motion of confidence in Mr Iain Duncan Smith, who later likened the event to a ‘near-death experience’. Talks between the Communication Workers Union and the Post Office ended unofficial strikes by postmen that had brought mail in London and elsewhere to a standstill. Firemen went on unofficial strike over pay rises. Mr James Murdoch was appointed chief executive of BSkyB; he is the 30-year-old son of Mr Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of the company. The House of Bishops of the Church of England Synod issued a document called Some Issues in Human Sexuality, the publication of which had been delayed for months; it declared that it did not intend to change the directives of an earlier report from 1991 which said that homosexual people in long-term relationships should not be excluded from Holy Communion, but that homosexual clergy should be celibate. Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a speech in which he said: ‘Europe’s rigidities, inflexibilities and lack of competitiveness are now fully exposed.’ Superintendent Ali Dizaei returned to work for the Metropolitan Police, on secondment to the Black Police Association, when disciplinary charges against him were dropped and he agreed that his behaviour ‘fell far below’ that expected of an officer; he had been cleared of dishonesty at the Old Bailey after a Scotland Yard investigation costing £3 million. The Singapore High Commissioner telephoned No. 10 Downing Street for help at 2 a.m. when Mrs Kwa Geok Choo, the wife of Mr Lee Kwan Yew, was told by the London Hospital that she’d have to wait until 8 a.m. for a brain scan after she had suffered a stroke; she was then seen by 3.30 a.m. More than 500 of the 1,800 passengers aboard the P&O cruise ship Aurora in the Mediterranean developed gastroenteritis, caused by a Norwalk-like virus or ‘norovirus’; the ship was refused permission to dock at Athens, and after landing at Gibraltar, Spain closed the border. Experts at GCHQ in Cheltenham were puzzled by high-frequency noises coming from a Scarborough signal station until they were found to have been caused by a ram rubbing its horns against a transmitter mast.

In Iraq 16 American soldiers were killed when their helicopter was shot down near Fallujah. Dr Gene Robinson, an active homosexual, was consecrated Anglican Bishop of New Hampshire at an ice rink in Durham, NH, at which Dr David Bena, Suffragan Bishop of Albany, New York, read a letter from 36 bishops protesting that Dr Robinson’s ‘lifestyle is incompatible with scripture and the teachings of this Church’. ‘God will not be mocked,’ commented Dr Benjamin Nzimbi, the Primate of Kenya, and the organisation Primates of the Global South, said to represent 50 million of the world’s 70 million Anglicans, refused to recognise the consecration. French police arrested five people from Brittany on suspicion of providing support for the Real IRA after three firearms and ammunition were found in Normandy. A telephone poll of 7,515 people carried out for the European Union found that 59 per cent thought that Israel posed a ‘threat to world peace’, followed by Iran, North Korea and the United States, each of which 53 per cent identified as a threat. A constitution calling Afghanistan a moderate Islamic republic, with no mention of Sharia law, was presented after a year’s work by the Constitutional Review Commission; it will go to a loya jirga, a grand tribal convention, next month. Professor Richard Neustadt, the political philosopher, died, aged 84. Mr Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man, resigned as the head of the oil company Yukos a week after being arrested and held in a Moscow jail. The number of houses burnt by wild fires in California rose to more than 3,500. Prince Felipe, the heir to the Spanish throne, is to marry a divorced television news reader.