The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 4 June 2005

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, on holiday in Italy, called for ‘time for reflection’ after the French referendum’s rejection of the proposed European constitution. ‘What emerges so strongly from the French referendum campaign,’ he said, ‘is this deep, profound, underlying anxiety that people in Europe have about how the economy in Europe faces up to the challenges of the modern world.’ Mr Bob Geldof announced five simultaneous free concerts on 2 July in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and Philadelphia, in support of the Make Poverty History campaign (for fair trade and debt forgiveness) and as an encouragement to a scheme to get a million people to demonstrate in Edinburgh at the time of the G8 summit in Gleneagles from 6 July. Some of the fashionable white wristbands bearing the words ‘Make Poverty History’ were reported to have been made in a Chinese factory paying less than the minimum wage of 16p an hour. The Home Office revised its estimate for introducing an identity card scheme to £5.8 billion, a £300 million increase since its last estimate in November; it would make the cost £93 a head. Tory MPs reacted angrily to an address to them, on changes in their constitution and in leadership election rules, delivered by Mr Raymond Monbiot, the deputy chairman of the Conservative party, accompanying Mr Michael Howard, the party leader; there were mutterings about getting Mr Howard out during the summer, to be replaced somehow by Mr David Davis. Of 615 Tory party members and 1,005 people who voted Tory last month, polled by YouGov for the Daily Telegraph, 54 per cent gave Mr Davis as their first or second choice; 54 per cent said Mr Kenneth Clarke would be ‘completely unacceptable’. Fay Godwin, the landscape photographer, died, aged 74. In April, 84 million text messages a day were sent, 20 per cent up on a year before. London had its hottest May day since 1944 on May 27, with a temperature of 89.4F.

In the French referendum on the proposed European Union constitution, 54.68 per cent voted No; the turnout was 69.3 per cent. ‘It is your sovereign decision, and I take note,’ President Jacques Chirac told the people on television. The next day he sacked Jean-Pierre Raffarin as prime minister and appointed in his place Dominique de Villepin, who has never held elected office. Mr Chirac also said that the place of France in Europe should not follow the ‘Anglo-Saxon model’. Two days later it was the turn of the Dutch to demonstrate their dislike of the constitution. The Iraqi government said that it had deployed 40,000 soldiers to put a ‘ring of steel’ around Baghdad. US soldiers fired stun grenades as they broke into the house of Iraq’s leading moderate Sunni politician, Mr Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, a Kurd, before hooding him and dragging him away; they released him after ten hours, saying ‘he was detained by mistake’. President George Bush of the United States warmly welcomed President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to the White House. The Israeli Cabinet decided to free 400 Palestinian prisoners, as what Mr Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister, called ‘part of Israel’s effort to help Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and the moderate Palestinian forces’. Plans were discovered to demolish 88 Arab homes in the Silwan area of Jerusalem, just below the walled Old City, to make room for a park highlighting the city’s ancient Jewish history. Two bombs killed at least 20 in the Christian town of Tentena on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Mr Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Yukos oil company, was sentenced to nine years’ jail on fraud charges by a Russian court. Mr Mark Felt, 91, a retired FBI man, was named as ‘Deep Throat’, the source claimed by Mr Carl Bernstein and Mr Bob Woodward as a main source in reporting the Watergate break-in in 1972. The diocese of Rome began the process that may lead to the canonisation of Pope John Paul II. Ismail Merchant, the film director, died, aged 68. South Africa’s national commission on geographical names decided that Pretoria should in future be known as Tshanwe.