The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 25 September 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Five protesters, who had gained access to Parliament by posing as electricians, invaded the House of Commons during the debate on the Bill to outlaw fox hunting and engaged in scuffles with several officials in tights. Pro-hunting protesters were also out in force in Parliament Square, where several were injured in clashes with riot police. MPs once again voted in favour of a ban, though Tony Blair still hinted at a compromise. Ramblers celebrated the opening of the first tracts of moorland under the ‘right to roam’ legislation but without the countryside minister, Alun Michael, who had been advised by the police to keep away from hunting types. Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, proposed a plan to cut the sentences served by murderers to ten years if they confessed before trial. The Liberal Democrats began their conference in Bournemouth by promising to increase to 50 per cent the upper rate of tax on incomes over £100,000, but to cut taxes for low income-earners. The Department of Trade and Industry would be abolished and the Royal Mint privatised. John Redwood, who is in charge of deregulation in the shadow Cabinet, said the Tories would try to renegotiate EU laws which it deemed to be ‘excessive’. The Department of Health announced that it will be writing to 6,000 patients who have received blood transfusions to warn them that they might have contracted variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. A loyalist terrorist, Ken Barrett, was jailed for 22 years after pleading guilty to the murder of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989. A Virgin tilting train reached Manchester from London in one hour and 54 minutes, 15 minutes faster than the previous record. A cleaner who taught Islamic morals to children at a mosque in Peterborough was convicted of hitting one of his charges with a stick. Brian Clough, the football manager, died, aged 69.

A nine-minute videotape appeared on the Internet showing an American construction engineer being decapitated with a knife after being kidnapped in Baghdad. The executioner, believed to be the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, declared in his commentary: ‘Now you have people who love death just like you love life. Getting to your soldiers and allies are their happiest moments, and cutting the heads off the criminal infidels is implementing the orders of our Lord.’ A second American hostage was also later beheaded but as we went to press it seemed that the life of a British hostage might be saved, as the Iraqi government announced that it might meet the kidnappers’ demands: freeing the Baathist microbiologists known as Dr Germ and Mrs Anthrax. Iyad Allawi, Prime Minister in the interim Iraqi government, visited Tony Blair in London and announced that Saddam Hussein will be put on trial in October. Mr Blair admitted in a speech that Britain and America are still at war in Iraq in spite of President Bush’s declaration of victory last year. Neo-Nazis won 9 per cent of the vote in regional elections in the former East German state of Saxony; the Party of Democratic Socialism — as the communists now call themselves — did even better, winning 23.6 per cent. The US lifted trade sanctions on Libya. CBS, the American television network, apologised for a report claiming that George W. Bush had been given special treatment while serving in the National Guard during the Vietnam war; it admitted that it could not authenticate the leaked memos on which the story was based. Ivan, the third hurricane in less than a month, struck the coasts of Florida and Louisiana, killing at least 12 people; a following storm killed 700 people in Haiti. A Roman Catholic priest was put on trial at the United Nations’ war crimes court in Rwanda, accused of bulldozing his church in 1994 while 2,000 Tutsi men, women and children sought sanctuary within. The Nigerian government apologised for ‘losing’ a Russian oil tanker which its navy impounded last year on suspicion of smuggling oil; the crew have also been mislaid. European golfers easily beat their American opponents in the Ryder Cup.