The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 24 May 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sent Cabinet ministers a 2,500-page dossier on the Treasury's assessment of the five economic tests applicable in deciding if Britain should join the euro-zone. The ministers were then invited in one by one for 'trilateral' talks with the Chancellor and Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister. The Cabinet's decision is to be announced and the mountain of documentation published on 9 June; if the recommendation is to join, of which there is no predictable chance, there will be a referendum. Mr Blair wants Britain to enter the zone, and the press was full of stories about his tussle with Mr Brown. Some people called for another referendum on the proposed new constitution for the European Union, masterminded by M. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who visited Downing Street for talks with Mr Blair. The government majority was cut to 72 when 33 Labour members voted against their party to oppose provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill to limit trial by jury. The government put London forward to hold the Olympic Games in 2012. Camelot is to sell lottery tickets at 1p each to help raise funds for the bid. Shareholders in GlaxoSmithKline voted against a remuneration report which included provision for a £22 million payment to the company's chief executive, Mr Jean-Pierre Garnier, should he leave, even if sacked. Dame Wendy Hiller, the stage actress also known for films including Pygmalion and Major Barbara, died, aged 90. David Beckham the football player had his hair braided in cornrows as if he were a black man, and then went off to meet Mr Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The High Court gave life-long anonymity to Mary Bell, who as a child killed two little boys. A man was jailed for two years for stealing two and a half miles of railway lines, weighing 350 tons. A cull of hedgehogs on Uist costing £90,000 ended with only 50 being killed; in the same period 130 were captured by hedgehog-lovers and flown to the mainland.

Fourteen bombers, 13 of whom died, killed 28 people in five attacks in Casablanca, Morocco, on the same evening; one bomber was arrested. The attack was attributed to al-Qa'eda. British flights in and out of Kenya were cancelled in response to warnings about terrorist attacks. The Foreign Office also warned of terrorist threats in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Tanzania. The British embassy in Saudi Arabia closed its doors. A Palestinian suicide bomber dressed as an Orthodox Jew killed seven and himself on a bus in Jerusalem. The Israeli army sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Mr Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister, cancelled a trip to Washington to discuss the American 'road-map' for a Middle East peace settlement. Another four suicide bombings in 48 hours killed five more Israelis. A decomposed body recovered from the sea off Tel Aviv was identified by Israeli officials as that of Omar Khan Sharif, a man from Derby wanted in connection with a suicide bombing on 30 April that killed three, carried out by Asif Mohammed Hanif, from Hounslow, west London. In Ein el-Hilweh, the largest refugee camp in Lebanon, housing 75,000 Palestinians, fighting between gunmen loyal to President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority and members of the al-Nour extreme Islamist group, an offshoot of the Asbat al-Ansar faction, left seven dead and 21 wounded. The German economy lapsed into recession. In the Belgian elections, the free-market Liberals won 49 seats in the 150-member parliament; their socialist coalition partners won 48, up 13; the Christian Democrats won 29, down 3; the Greens lost 16 of the 20 seats they had held; the right-wing Vlaams Blok won 18, up 3. In Japan the Panawave Laboratory cult, which dislikes electro-magnetic forces, said that the world would end the day before yesterday.