The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 27 December 2003

A speedy round-up of the year's news

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January. Two young black women, Letisha Shakespear and Charlene Ellis, were shot dead during a party at a hairdresser's at Aston, Birmingham. Eli Hall, a gunman surrounded by police for 15 days at a house in Hackney, was found dead after a fire. The Fire Brigades Union planned strikes. An Underground train was derailed at Chancery Lane. The FT-SE index fell to a seven-year low. Lord Jenkins of Hillhead died, aged 82; Lord Dacre, aged 89; Gianni Agnelli, aged 81; General Leopoldo Galtieri, aged 76. The Pope said: 'War cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option.' The United States built up troops in the Gulf. The Queen had an operation on her right knee.

February. A million rallied in Hyde Park after a march opposing war against Iraq. Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, met the Pope in Rome, as did Mr Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister of Iraq. The Charity Commission banned Mr Abu Hamza from speaking at Finsbury Park Mosque. Firemen went on strike again. The space shuttle Columbia broke up, and seven died. Mr Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, called Mr Michael Portillo 'self-indulgent to the point of madness'. Dolly, the first sheep to be cloned, died, aged six, and was stuffed. Motor cars were charged to use eight square miles of central London.

March. British forces joined the American assault on Iraq. Television viewers saw powerful explosions in Baghdad. Civilian casualties were very low. The US 3rd Infantry moved fast through the desert. US losses were 51 killed by 1 April and British fatalities totalled 27. The Dow-Jones had its best week for 20 years. Adam Faith died, aged 62. Dame Thora Hird died, aged 91. Palestinian suicide bombers struck in Israel. Israel attacked the Gaza Strip. President Yasser Arafat appointed a prime minister, Mr Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome rose to 1,612, with more than 70 deaths. Mr Michael Fawcett resigned as personal assistant to the Prince of Wales.

April. Coalition forces entered Baghdad. There was little resistance. The National Museum in Baghdad was looted by Iraqis. An American bomber aircraft dropped bombs on a Baghdad restaurant which President Saddam Hussein had just left. The United States announced its withdrawal from Saudi bases. Sir Paul Getty died, aged 70. Oxford won the Boat Race by a foot.

May. Under a banner 'Mission accomplished', President George Bush of the United States landed on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to mark the end of major hostilities in Iraq. In Casablanca 28 died in five bomb attacks on the same evening. The government put London forward to hold the Olympic Games in 2012. Dame Wendy Hiller died, aged 90. Rachel Kempson, Lady Redgrave, died, aged 92. Aron Ralston, aged 27, cut off his right arm after it was trapped for five days under a fallen boulder at Blue John Canyon, Utah.

June. Mr Blair tried to abolish the Lord Chancellor overnight, but it was found he had no such power. The Farm Animal Welfare Council, a government-appointed advisory body, called for the criminalisation of Jewish and Muslim methods of slaughter. Gregory Peck died, aged 87. Mr Aaron Barschak climbed into Windsor Castle dressed as Osama bin Laden in drag, with a hideous shaggy merkin, and gatecrashed Prince William's 21st birthday party. Enormous crowds celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Queen's Coronation.

July. Mr Alastair Campbell had a perplexing row with the BBC about wireless reports by Mr Andrew Gilligan. Dr David Kelly, an MoD expert on Iraqi weapons, killed himself. Mr Blair, after ovations from both houses of Congress in Washington, turned pale and appointed Lord Hutton to hold an inquiry into Dr Kelly's death. The Americans released photographs of the dead Uday and Qusay Hussein, Saddam Hussein's sons. Connex had its franchise removed by the Strategic Rail Authority. Sir Denis Thatcher died, aged 88. Bob Hope died, aged 100. In Hong Kong half a million marched in protest against proposed anti-subversion laws. A farmer from southwest Chonking who sold a panda cub's fur for 200 yuan ('18) was jailed for 14 years.

August. Britain enjoyed the hottest day recorded: over 100F. New York City suffered a power cut of several hours. Bombs killed 13 in Jakarta, 51 in Bombay and 12 at the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad. Israeli forces killed seven Hamas members after the murder of 21 Israelis in a bus bombing. Mr Charles Taylor resigned as President of Liberia and flew to Nigeria. Idi Amin died in exile in Saudi Arabia, aged about 78. Sir Wilfred Thesiger died, aged 93. A black woman complained the NHS had offered her a pink false leg.

September. Mr Alastair Campbell resigned as the Prime Minister's Director of Communications and Strategy. Swedes voted not to join the euro zone of the EU. All mainland Italy suffered a power cut at 3.25 a.m. A bomb killed 90 in Najaf, Iraq. Mr Mahmoud Abbas resigned. Edward Said died, aged 67; Patrick Procktor, aged 67; Peter West, aged 83; C.H. Sisson, aged 89; Charles Bronson, aged 81; and Leni Riefenstahl, aged 101. Fifty thousand Australian sheep were stranded in a ship in the Persian Gulf after being rejected by Saudi buyers as too diseased.

October. Mr Iain Duncan Smith lost a vote of confidence and no one but Mr Michael Howard was nominated to replace him as leader of the Conservative party. Mr air had a bout of tachycardia. Princes William and Harry said Mr Paul Burrell, their mother's former butler, was guilty of 'cold and overt betrayal' in publishing private information about her. Mr Burrell said he hoped they would ask him to tea. Israel bombed Syria after a woman suicide bomber killed 19 in Haifa. Mr J.M. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

November. The Prince of Wales denied unspecified allegations. President Bush made a state visit to Britain. A Daily Mirror journalist got a job as a servant in Buckingham Palace and told the world that the Queen uses Tupperware. The Countess of Wessex bore a daughter, Louise, weighing 4lb 9oz. A car bomb killed 18 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Mr Eduard Shevardnadze resigned as President of Georgia in the face of huge demonstrations. The Revd Canaan Banana died, aged 67. England won the Rugby Union World Cup. Ring rot hit potatoes.

December. Saddam Hussein was arrested in a hole near Tikrit. America prepared to remove high tariffs on steel from the EU. Negotiations on an EU constitution broke down. The Democratic Unionist party became the biggest in Northern Ireland in elections for the Assembly, which remained suspended; Sinn Fein became the biggest nationalist party. Glynn Boyd Harte died, aged 55. President Robert Mugabe said Zimbabwe was leaving the Commonwealth. The Queen had an operation on her left knee.