The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 2 October 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, in a speech at the Labour party conference in Brighton, spoke of a ‘wholly new phenomenon, worldwide global terrorism based on a perversion of the true, peaceful and honourable faith of Islam’ with roots ‘in the extreme forms of Wahabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia’. He also declared that Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was ‘a personal friend for 20 years and the best Chancellor this country has ever had’. Mr Brown gave a speech in which he connected socialist provision of welfare with an ethic of public service; ‘There are values far beyond those of contracts, markets and exchange,’ he said, in what was seen as a smack at the aims of his rival, Mr Alan Milburn, who has been appointed by Mr Blair to replace him in directing the party’s election campaign. Immediately afterwards Mr Milburn said, ‘Simply screaming louder and louder about our achievements in the past is not necessarily the way to get through to the public.’ Delegates at the conference voted for the renationalisation of the railways. On their first day, of Virgin’s 150 Pendolino ‘tilting train’ services, 57 arrived up to ten minutes after the scheduled time, and another 35 were more than ten minutes late. Virgin announced plans to transport customers to the edge of space at £100,000 a kick. P&O is to get rid of 1,200 workers and cut several Channel ferry routes. McDonald’s in Britain saw pre-tax profits fall from £83.8 million in 2002 to £23.6 million last year. Eight post offices in Norfolk, at Watton, Upwell, Swaffham, Downham Market, Holt, Wells-next-the-Sea, Stalham and Acle, will take on some functions of police stations: people will be able to report crimes, present driving licences, or leave messages for policemen. A woman was killed after spending six minutes begging for police help because her estranged husband was in the house shooting a gun; even after he had killed himself police waited six hours to enter. The Food Standards Agency complained that supermarket mince labelled ‘extra lean’ sometimes had more fat than the same shop’s ordinary mince. The Little Chef chain of roadside restaurants decided after all not to change its sign of a fat little chef. The number of house flies will double this century, according to a study of landfill waste. A 14-year-old boy lost both legs after attempting to surf a goods train in Cheshire.

Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, the Jordanian terrorist whose men captured Ken Bigley, a British man, and two Americans, who were killed, carried out several bomb attacks on Iraqi forces. American forces made repeated air strikes against positions thought to be held by al-Zarkawi’s men in Fallujah, but were inhibited from opening a ground assault on the city while the presidential election campaign continued in the United States. Two British soldiers were killed in an ambush near Basra. Oil prices in New York rose above $50 a barrel, partly because of fighting between rebels and the army in Nigeria. A judge in Yemen sentenced two men to death and imprisoned four others for their part in the attack on USS Cole in 2000. Libya agreed with Italy to assess would-be asylum-seekers, and plans were made to build camps for them in Libya. The Socialist government of Spain legalised homosexual ‘marriage’; Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, a spokesman for the Spanish bishops’ conference, said this would create ‘a counterfeit currency in the body of society’. On Pitcairn Island, population 47, seven men went on trial for sexual offences against girls over the past 35 years. Four babies in incubators at the B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children in Calcutta died during a power cut. Hurricane Jeanne, the fourth in a row to sweep the Caribbean and the American South, turned into a mere storm by the time it hit Florida. Poland’s state railways are seeking £320 compensation from a man who delayed services when he was run over by a train; the man, who is paralysed and has also had his house burnt down, hopes to pay out of his disability allowance. CSH