The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 9 October 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Michael Howard, the leader of the opposition, speaking at the Conservative party conference, summarised Tory plans in ten words: ‘school discipline, more police, cleaner hospitals, lower taxes and controlled immigration’. Neither he nor Mr Oliver Letwin, the shadow chancellor of the exchequer, would make specific promises on tax, on the grounds that former promises had been broken. In a video, Dr Liam Fox, the party’s co-chairman, said his favourite pop group were the gay post-modernist Scissor Sisters. Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, had an operation via a catheter to ablate a troublesome spot in his heart responsible for giving him recurrent superventricular tachycardia. Just before going into hospital he announced that he would serve a full third term as prime minister; Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was out of the country at the time. Mr Blair also set about buying a house in Connaught Square, off the Bayswater Road, for more than £3 million. After the by-election at Hartlepool, in which the UK Independence party came third, ahead of the Conservatives, Mr Robert Kilroy-Silk, an MEP, demanded at its annual conference to become its leader. Mr Paul Sykes, a rich Yorkshireman, who has given £1 million to Ukip, said he would give no more after their decision to field candidates against Eurosceptic Conservatives. Mr Malcolm Glazer, a rich American who owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an American football franchise, said he wanted to buy Manchester United. A big aggressive American ladybird called the Harlequin, with lots of spots, was found in Essex, causing alarm lest it drive into extinction native ladybirds, such as the Seven-Spot.

Mr Paul Bremer, the former head of the US occupation in Iraq, said the United States did not have enough troops in Iraq after bringing down Saddam Hussein, and this allowed ‘horrid’ looting: ‘we paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness,’ he said in a speech to insurance executives in West Virginia. American aircraft carried out a week of strikes against what were said to be terrorist houses in Fallujah; American forces said they had regained control of the city of Samarra; the general hospital there said that the bodies of 29 men, 18 women and 23 children had been brought in. American aircraft also made night attacks on Sadr City, a large, poor Shiite suburb of Baghdad. Last Monday two car bombs killed 21 in Baghdad, another bombing killed seven in Mosul, and a senior official of Iraq’s sciences and technology ministry was murdered. Israel launched an assault on Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, killing more than 60 in a week; the declared aim was to prevent rocket attacks on Israel, which killed two children during the offensive. Bombings and shootings by insurgents in Assam and Nagaland killed more than 70 in two days. The reputed head of Euzkadi ta Azkatasuna, the Basque independence terrorists, was arrested in south-west France with 16 other suspects. More bodies were found in Haiti, bringing the numbers killed by Hurricane Jeanne to more than 2,000. Janet Leigh, who starred in Hitchcock’s Psycho, died, aged 77. Senator John Kerry, the Democrat candidate for the presidency of the United States, was generally thought to have done better than President George Bush in a televised debate. General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won a landslide in Indonesia’s first direct presidential elections. President Hamid Karzai was ahead in the presidential election campaign in Afghanistan. In the Australian election campaign, Mr Mark Latham, the leader of the opposition, called the cabinet ‘a conga-line of suck holes’.