The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 19 February 2005

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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The Labour party made six so-called pledges: ‘Your family better off. Your child achieving more. Your children with the best start. Your family treated better and faster. Your community safer. Your country’s borders protected.’ Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, made a speech at a party conference at Gateshead in which he said his relationship with the electorate was like that of a man going through a bad patch in his marriage during which crockery is thrown at him; ‘I’m back and it feels good,’ he added. The Prince of Wales is to marry Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles on 8 April in a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle, to be followed by a service of prayer and dedication, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Mrs Parker Bowles wishes to be known as HRH the Duchess of Cornwall; if Prince Charles comes to the throne, she would, it was said, be called the Princess Consort. The Greater London Assembly called on Mr Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, to withdraw remarks made to a reporter from the London Evening Standard, who had identified himself as Jewish, likening him to a concentration camp guard. A British man called Salahuddin Amin, aged 29, was arrested at Heathrow after flying from Pakistan, and charged with conspiring to cause an explosion between 1 October 2003 and 31 March 2004. Lloyds TSB launched an Islamic current account that conforms to Sharia prohibition of interest. A council bulldozer demolished a house built without planning permission near Spalding, Lincolnshire, inhabited by up to 70 Eastern European workers and their families. UK Coal said it could not fully meet a contract to supply 18 million tons in five years to Drax power station, Yorkshire. The Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index rose above 5000 for the first time since 31 May 2002. Mrs Tessa Jowell travelled in a blue double-decker bus between Birmingham and Much Wenlock in the stated belief that this would improve London’s chances of holding the Olympic Games in 2012.

The Shiite party, the United Iraqi Alliance, supported by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was found to have secured 48 per cent of the vote in the Iraqi election; the Kurdish Alliance came second with 25 per cent, and the Iraqi List, associated with Mr Iyad Allawi, 13 per cent. The turnout was 58 per cent, with few Sunnis voting in most areas. Rafik Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, who rebuilt the centre of Beirut and had recently fallen out with Syria over its political control of Lebanon, was killed in an explosion that destroyed 20 cars and killed another 16 people. The United States withdrew its ambassador to Syria. Fire destroyed the 330ft Windsor building in the Paseo de la Castellana in central Madrid, leading to the closure of underground railway lines. A fire at the Ark mosque in Tehran on the eve of Ashura killed 60. In China an explosion killed more than 200 at a coal mine at Fuxin in Liaoning province. Mr Ban Ki-moon, the foreign minister of South Korea, visited Washington to discuss with Miss Condoleezza Rice, the American Secretary of State, what to do about North Korea’s claim to have nuclear weapons. Lome, the capital of Togo, was gripped by a general strike in protest against the installation of Mr Faure Gnassingbe as president in succession to his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled for 38 years until his death on 5 February. Arthur Miller, the playwright, died, aged 89. Sister Lucia, the last of the three children who saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, died as a Carmelite nun, aged 97. Bremerhaven zoo was bombarded with protests when it encouraged six Humboldt penguins said to have homosexual tendencies to mate with four females flown in from Sweden.