The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 14 June 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, told Parliament that only one of the five economic tests that would allow Britain to join the eurozone had been met; this was whether the City of London would remain Europe's leading financial centre. But Mr Brown said that at the next Budget he would 'consider the extent of progress and determine whether on the basis of the five economic tests which – if positive next year – would allow us at that time to put the issue before the British people in a referendum'. A Bill, stating the question to be asked, will be published this autumn. Mr Brown showed dissatisfaction with the rarity of fixed-rate mortgages and did not rule out using stamp duty and capital-gains tax to meddle with the market. Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said, 'It would be better if we hadn't published that dossier' – the so-called 'dodgy dossier' on Iraq in January, part of which was lifted from a 12-year-old thesis. Mr Alastair Campbell, the director of communications at the Prime Minister's office, wrote to Sir Richard Dearlove, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, apologising for using intelligence in the dossier in the way that it had been. The Commons health committee reported that it was 'appalled by the crisis in sexual health' which has seen syphilis increasing fivefold in six years. Ian Huntley, awaiting trial for the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, took an overdose of anti-depressant pills in prison but was saved from death. Mr Mark Amory, the literary editor of The Spectator, and Mrs Hilary Spurling, the biographer, shared the £20,000 Heywood Hill literary prize. Mr T.J. Binyon won the £30,000 Samuel Johnson prize for his biography of Pushkin. The Farm Animal Welfare Council, a government-appointed advisory body, called for the criminalisation of Jewish and Muslim methods of slaughtering animals. A sow known only as P1818 gave birth to 27 piglets near Driffield, Yorkshire.

In Poland 59 per cent of the 29.5 million electorate voted in a referendum on the European Union, with 77.5 per cent of those voting in favour of joining next year. The Pope made his 100th trip abroad, with a five-day visit to Croatia. Gene Robinson, who divorced his wife to live with a man, was elected Anglican Bishop of New Hampshire; 'My wife and I, in order to keep our wedding vow "to honour each other in the Name of God", made the decision to let each other go,' he said. In the Democratic Republic of Congo a French-led force of 1,500 began to try to restore order in Bunia. In Zimbabwe, Mr Morgan Tsvangerai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was arrested again after a week of demonstrations calling for the resignation of President Robert Mugabe which the government called 'treasonous'; President Mugabe said in a television interview, 'I don't want to retire in a situation where people are disunited.' Residents of Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, shouted 'Viva Maaouiya' and waved portraits of President Maaouiya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya after the crushing of an attempted Islamist coup against his pro-Western regime. Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a car, injuring Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a senior Hamas leader, killing two others and wounding 25; Hamas and two other groups had claimed responsibility for killing four Israeli soldiers in Gaza a few days before. Israeli troops dismantled ten uninhabited settlement outposts in the West Bank in accord with the 'road-map' sponsored by the United States. Schoolteachers in France protesting about pension provisions threatened to give all pupils high marks in examinations. A trainer of sniffer-dogs was put on trial in Virginia after dogs he supplied to the Federal Reserve failed to detect 50lb of dynamite, 50lb of TNT and 15lb of plastic explosives in vehicles brought in to test their skills.