The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 31 August 2002

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Mr Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, called for a written constitution for the European Union; but in a speech to Scottish businessmen he played down the significance of the demand: 'The Conservative party has a constitution,' he said, 'and so do golf clubs in Scotland.' Dr Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, said that the situation in the Middle East was 'forcing Israel into postures that are incompatible in the long run with our deepest ideals'. The Revd Tim Alban Jones, the vicar of Soham, Cambridgeshire, thanked well-wishers but added, 'We want our town back,' after its streets had become crowded with traffic bringing visitors to see the site of the abduction of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, the girls found dead near Lakenheath two weeks later; coach parties had made detours to see the churchyard where thousands of bunches of flowers lay, still wrapped in paper. A man died at Oldbury in the West Midlands after seven people contracted legionnaires' disease; four had died in an outbreak at Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, a month before. Mr Colin Skellett, the chairman of Wessex Water, was arrested on suspicion of receiving a £1 million bribe at the time the company was sold to YTL Power of Malaysia in May; he vigorously denied the allegation. A report for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about a tax on supermarket plastic carrier-bags in Ireland recommended that a tax of 10p a bag might usefully be imposed in Britain. Titian's 'Rest on the Flight into Egypt', stolen from Longleat in 1995, was recovered after being left in a plastic bag in a bus shelter. The Leeds music festival ended in rioting, with the main block of temporary lavatories being burned. An 18-stone man making a 200ft bungee jump for charity fell to his death when the harness slipped from his ankles. Asked by an Internet poll by YouGov if they would settle in another country if they were free to do so, 54 per cent of respondents said Yes; Gallup polls in 1948 and 1975 gave percentages in favour of 42 and 40. Tony McCoy gained more winners than any other jump jockey when he rode his 1,700th at Uttoxeter, beating the record of Richard Dunwoody.

The Spanish parliament banned Batasuna, the party linked to Euzkadi ta Azkatasuna, the Basque terrorist group. Mr Dick Cheney, the vice-president of the United States, said that there was an imperative for pre-emptive action against Iraq: 'The risks of inaction are far greater than the risks of action.' President George Bush of the United States met the Saudi ambassador as relations between the two countries deteriorated. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt said that if war against Iraq began while there was still conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, 'not one Arab leader will be able to control the outburst of the masses'. A summit conference on sustainable development got under way at Sandton, Johannesburg. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe reshuffled his cabinet, leaving it without a white minister for the first time since independence in 1980; Mr Simba Makoni, the finance minister, was among those sacked. Mr Paul van Buitenen, whose exposure of abuses in the European Commission led to its wholesale resignation in 1999, himself resigned, saying that the EU was 'unreformable' while it remained outside the control of an elected parliament. With the postponement of the party congress from September to November, there were signs that Mr Jiang Zemin, aged 76, had succeeded in extending his rule over China by five years, thwarting the succession of Mr Hu Jintao, aged 59. Three old men were killed by lightning at a funeral in Willard, Missouri. Mr Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defence minister, denied having bombed villages in northern Georgia as part of its civil war against Chechen rebels; President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia said: 'There was no doubt whatsoever that the air raid was carried out from Russian territory.' Five Roman Catholic priests in the United States sued for defamation people who accused them of sexual molestation.

CSH