The Spectator

Portrait of the Week – 12 December 2009

Mr Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his pre-Budget statement, made hostile gestures at bonus-earning bankers to distract attention from the borrowings of £178 billion that Britain will have to make this year.

Mr Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his pre-Budget statement, made hostile gestures at bonus-earning bankers to distract attention from the borrowings of £178 billion that Britain will have to make this year.

Mr Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his pre-Budget statement, made hostile gestures at bonus-earning bankers to distract attention from the borrowings of £178 billion that Britain will have to make this year. ‘Efficiencies’ promised in some departments still left total borrowing at much the same level. In a pre-emptive strike, Mr Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, attacked a ‘culture of excess’ among higher earners in the public sector, and promised to cut the salaries of senior civil servants. Lending to small and medium-sized businesses by Royal Bank of Scotland RBS (70 per cent state-owned) and Lloyds Banking Group (43 per cent state-owned) would not meet the levels they had agreed to, according to the National Audit Office. An inquiry into the Student Loan Company found a ‘conspicuous failure’ in services as thousands of students were left unprovided for this year.

Baroness Young of Old Scone resigned as chairman of the Care Quality Commission after a year. Her departure was announced a week after a report from the Dr Foster Intelligence unit had rated a dozen hospitals as ‘significantly underperforming’, despite nine of them being rated good or excellent by the CQC. The Office for National Statistics said that 11 per cent of the British population was born abroad, with 24 per cent of births being to mothers born abroad. The number of very poor households is at its highest for 25 years, at 5.7 million, according to a study by the New Policy Institute. A house in Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush, west London, only 5ft 6in wide, went on sale for £549,950.

Professor Phil Jones, the director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit said that he would stand down from his post while an independent inquiry was undertaken by Sir Muir Russell, the vice-chancellor of Glasgow University, into claims that CRU scientists manipulated data on global warming. Just before the United Nations summit on climate in Copenhagen began, Mr Gordon Brown said: ‘We mustn’t be distracted by the behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics.’ Lord Mandelson, the First Secretary of State, in response to being likened by Mr James Naughtie, a radio journalist on the Today programme, to the Gilbert and Sullivan character Pooh-Bah, asked: ‘Who is Pooh-Bah?’ Mr Tony Blair, the former prime minister, opened a methanol plant in Baku, the capital of Armenia, as a guest of its chairman Mr Nizami Piriyev. Lance Corporal Adam Drane, from 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, became the 100th British serviceman to be killed in Afghanistan this year.

A pedestrian footbridge 170ft long over the Derwent was completed by soldiers three weeks after floods left two halves of Workington separated by an 18-mile detour. Richard Todd, the film actor, died, aged 90. Richard Wright, a 49-year-old artist from Glasgow, won the Turner prize for his gold-leaf geometric murals. The two television performers Ant and Dec figured among new entries in Who’s Who. 

President Barack Obama of the United States decided to attend the end instead of the beginning of the Copenhagen conference. Unemployment in the United States unexpectedly fell a little, to 10 per cent. The Episcopalian diocese of Los Angeles elected Canon Mary Glasspool, who has been living with another woman since 1998, as an assistant bishop.

An American student, Amanda Knox, and an Italian student, Raffaele Sollecito, were jailed for 26 and 25 years on being found guilty of murdering the English student Meredith Kercher in Perugia in 2007, when she was 21. Italian police seized 19 paintings worth £90 million that they said belonged to Calisto Tanzi, the founder of the Parmalat dairy empire, which collapsed in 2003; the pictures included works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Cezanne, Modigliani, Manet and Degas. During a match between Vienna and Bilbao, Austrian neo-Nazis waved flags reading ‘Viva Franco’; Athletic Bilbao won 3-0.

Mr Yusuf Raza Gilani, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, said that Osama bin Laden, the al-Qa’eda leader, was not in Pakistan, though he did not know where he was. Simultaneous car bombs in Baghdad killed at least 127. More than 100 died in a fire at a nightclub in Perm, Russia. President Evo Morales was re-elected for another term in Bolivia. President Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power in Guinea last December, was flown to Morocco for an operation after being shot in an assassination attempt; and Vice-President Sekouba Konate returned from Lebanon to take charge. The Democratic Republic of Congo stayed the execution of two Norwegians convicted of murdering their driver, pending an appeal. The city of Golub-Dobrzyn in central Poland bought a new donkey for a Norwegian couple hiking round the world when their own was shot dead at night by a poacher who mistook it for a deer. CSH

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