The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 10 May 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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The Labour party suspended Mr George Galloway, an MP, from 'holding office or representing the party' while it investigated complaints that remarks he made during the war against Iraq might have constituted 'behaviour that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the party'. Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and Mr Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, attempted to reduce a rebellion by Labour MPs against their plans to introduce 'foundation' status for some hospitals. Car drivers will be charged £3 (or £1 at night) to use the 27-mile M6Toll motorway in the West Midlands, which opens in 2004. Mr Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, blamed 19 local authorities for not passing on to schools money from the government; but Mr David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said the accusation would not wash, and that redundancies were inevitable without more government funds. In local elections Labour ended up with 800 fewer seats than before and the Tories won more than 600 extra seats, making them the dominant party in local government for the first time since 1991. Someone called Mr Crispin Blunt resigned as an opposition spokesman on trade and industry on the evening of polling day, calling upon Mr Iain Duncan Smith to go. In elections for the Scottish Parliament, Labour won 50 seats (down from 56) out of 129; the Liberal Democrats 17; the Conservatives 18; the Scottish Nationalists 27 (down from 35); the Greens 7 and the Scottish Socialist party 6; turnout was 49 per cent. In elections for the Welsh Assembly, Labour won 30 of the 60 seats; Plaid Cymru won 12 (down from 17); turnout was 38 per cent. Elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly were cancelled again. Two suicide bombers who killed three in Tel Aviv were found to be British; Asif Mohammed Hanif, who died, came from Hounslow, west London, and Omar Khan Sharif, who escaped when his explosives did not go off, came from Derby. Mr Alastair Campbell intervened by saying, 'I'm sorry, we don't do God' when Mr Blair was asked by Vanity Fair, in an interview for his 50th birthday, about his religious ties with President George Bush. Manchester United beat Arsenal to win the Premiership. Childminders are to be prohibited from smacking children even if their parents want them to. A boy died when the branch of an oak tree in Richmond Park fell on him.

Mr Paul Bremer, aged 61, head of the American State Department's counter-terrorism office under President Reagan, was appointed to take charge of the transitional political administration of Iraq. American forces captured Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, the woman believed to have helped rebuild Iraq's biological weapons capability since 1991. The presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Malawi visited Zimbabwe in an attempt to persuade President Robert Mugabe to hold talks with Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition. Two Americans and a Russian, who had been stuck for three months on the International Space Station after the loss of the Columbia space shuttle, landed bumpily in a Soyuz capsule 300 miles off target on the steppes of Kazakhstan. China announced that all 70 crew of its submarine number 361 had been suffocated after a 'mechanical malfunction' on 26 April in the Yellow Sea. In an earthquake in eastern Turkey a school dormitory at Bingol collapsed killing 80 of the 197 inside. Tornadoes killed 37 in Missouri, Kansas and Tennessee. New Zealanders were encouraged to save electricity after two years of drought left hydroelectric reservoirs low. The Pope canonised five Spaniards at a Mass attended by a million in Plaza de Colon and surrounding boulevards in Madrid; he has now made 470 saints. Austrians held a general strike to protest against the cutting of pensions by 13 per cent. Aron Ralston, aged 27, a rock climber, cut off his own right arm below the elbow with his pocket knife after it had been trapped for five days under a huge fallen boulder at the Blue John Canyon, Utah.