The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 27 September 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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The Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told the Hutton inquiry that there was 'not a shred of evidence' that he had sought to identify the Ministry of Defence weapons expert Dr David Kelly as the source of Andrew Gilligan's BBC report on disquiet over the government's dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Lord Hutton then released the diaries of the Prime Minister's former director of communications, Alastair Campbell, who wrote of a meeting with Mr Hoon to discuss using Dr Kelly as a means of discrediting Mr Gilligan; 'I agreed it would fuck Gilligan,' wrote Mr Campbell. Richard Hatfield, head of personnel at the Ministry of Defence, described as 'outstanding' the support given to Dr David Kelly before he committed suicide. The Liberal Democrats won a by-election in Brent East, overturning a 13,000 Labour majority and also overtaking the Conservative candidate, who was pushed into third place. The local government minister Nick Raynsford admitted that council tax had reached the 'level of acceptability' and suggested that the government was looking for something else to tax instead. Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, announced the government's long-awaited plans for the 'second stage' reforms of the House of Lords; they will consist of removing the last 92 hereditary peers plus Lord Archer, but no members of the House will be elected. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority announced plans to replace the exam grade 'F', for 'Failure', with 'N', for 'Nearly'. Brendon Fearon, the burglar shot and injured by Norfolk farmer Tony Martin, dropped his case for compensation against Mr Martin. Lord Williams of Mostyn, Leader of the House of Lords, died, aged 62. Lord Blake, the historian, died, aged 86. Hugo Young, the political columnist, died, aged 64. World leaders, save for Tony Blair, who was opening a hospital wing in south London, met at the UN General Assembly to debate the war in Iraq and the programme to rebuild the country. The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said America must abandon its policy of pre-emptive military action against perceived enemies. The US President George W Bush and the French President Jacques Chirac agreed on something: to seek a resolution from the UN Security Council criminalising the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The German Chancellor Gerhard Schr