The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 22 May 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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‘The task of leadership when things are difficult is precisely not to cut and run,’ Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said at a press conference during a visit to Turkey. ‘We have the will, we have the leadership to do it, we will get the job done,’ he said, with reference to Iraq, but also in response to speculation that he might stand down as Prime Minister. Mr John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, was observed to have spent 90 minutes in the carpark of the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar in Argyllshire with Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who wants to be Prime Minister. ‘Tony Blair and I are working closely on both our spending round and the five-year departmental plans,’ Mr Brown said later in a speech. Mr Piers Morgan was sacked as editor of the Daily Mirror after the Ministry of Defence proved conclusively that the photographs the Mirror had published, purporting to show British soldiers mistreating Iraqis, were fakes. Arsenal celebrated a year without losing a match in the football League, a feat which was last pulled off by Preston North End in 1889. London, Paris, New York, Madrid and Moscow were named as the shortlist from which the host of the 2012 Olympics will be chosen. British Airways’s pre-tax profits rose by 70 per cent to £230 million. Lord Hesketh, who was recruited by the Conservative party last year to sort out its finances, announced that Easton Neston, his Hawksmoor house in 3,000 acres, including Towcester racecourse, was for sale at £50 million. Professor Christopher Ricks, known for his admiration of Bob Dylan’s lyrics, was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford.

Izzedin Salim, the head of Iraq’s Governing Council, was killed in a suicide bomb in Baghdad; he was 64. Two American soldiers were treated for ‘minor exposure’ to sarin when a 155mm shell converted into a roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad. British soldiers killed 28 members of the Mahdi army which attacked them between Basra and Amarah. On another day 50 members of the Mahdi army, run by the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, were killed in clashes with Coalition forces in Nasiriyah, which is controlled by Italian forces, in street fighting in Karbala, and in areas nearby. The Pentagon is to stop its monthly payment of about $335,000 to the Iraqi National Congress organisation run by Mr Ahmed Chalabi. Israel set about demolishing hundreds of residential buildings in the Palestinian Rafah refugee camp with the aim of countering militants who killed 13 Israeli soldiers the week before in ambushes in the Gaza Strip; on the first day of Israeli incursions into the camp 16 Palestinians were killed. In India, Mrs Sonia Gandhi stepped down on the eve of being confirmed as prime minister after her Congress party won an unexpected election victory. The day before her surprising decision proved to be the worst in the 129-year history of the Bombay stock exchange. M. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French finance minister, called the 35-hour week introduced by the Socialist party in 1997 a disaster. M. Fran