The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 13 March 2014

Portrait of the week | 13 March 2014
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Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour party, promised that, if elected, his administration would hold a referendum on membership of the European Union only if there was a new transfer of power to Brussels, which he called ‘unlikely’. If Scotland votes for independence, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds might have to move their legal homes to London under European Union law, the BBC reported. BBC Three is to be closed as an on-air channel, to go online only. The future of BBC Four is also in question. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, told the Treasury Select Committee that interest rates could reach 3 per cent within three years. He also said that a new deputy governor would be appointed with responsibility for markets, after criticism of its response to claims of manipulation of foreign exchange rates. Euan Sutherland resigned as chief executive of the Co-operative Group after saying that its failure to change its governance made it impossible to overhaul the business. Sir Hugh Leggatt, the art dealer, died, aged 89. Bob Crow, the militant leader of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, died, aged 52.

MPs voted for Clause 119 of the Care Bill, to allow the closure of a hospital even if it is performing well, to accommodate a neighbouring trust that is doing badly financially. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced in Parliament that there would be a judge-led inquiry into police spying, including on the family of Stephen Lawrence during an inquest into the investigation of his murder. Richard Mawrey, a judge and election commissioner, said that ‘on-demand’ postal voting was open to fraud on an ‘industrial scale’. Downham Market fire station burnt down with its fire-engine inside it; it had no fire alarm or sprinklers.

Nigel Evans MP, who resigned as deputy speaker last September, went on trial on one count of rape, two counts of indecent assault and six of sexual assault against seven men, between 2002 and 2013. Max Clifford, the publicist, went on trial on 11 counts of indecent assault relating to seven alleged victims, aged from 14 to 19, between 1966 and 1984. Jim Holditch, head of Godinton Primary School in Ashford, Kent, said that lunch would have to begin at 11 a.m. because of the coalition government introduction of free school meals for all reception-year, Year 1 and Year 2 children.


In Crimea, which was firmly controlled by Russian forces, the parliament called a referendum for 16 March on joining Russia, which it equated with independence. The Ukrainian parliament asked Britain and the United States — as guarantors of security pledges given to Ukraine in 1994 — to use all measures, including military ones, to stop Russia’s ‘aggression’. The European Commission offered Ukraine trade incentives worth £417 million. President Barack Obama of the United States signed an executive order to freeze US-held assets of those held responsible for undermining democracy in Ukraine, who will include some of Russia’s richest men. New Zealand is to hold a referendum on whether to drop the Union Jack from its flag in favour of the silver fern familiar to All Blacks fans.

A Malaysia Airlines aeroplane went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people on board. Fyfes and Chiquita are to merge to form the world’s biggest banana business, selling 160 million boxes a year. After a tense count, Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, was elected to parliament with 100 per cent of the votes cast in his constituency. The mysterious Japanese bitcoin exchange, Mt Gox, filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the United States. Canada offered tax breaks to people who encouraged sexual intercourse between moose in Nova Scotia.

Libya’s parliament dismissed Ali Zeidan as prime minister after a tanker laden with oil broke through a naval blockade of the port of Sidra, which has been held by Cyrenaican separatist rebels since last August. Nouri Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of trying to destabilise the country by supporting insurgents. More than 1,400 people were killed in Iraq in January and February. Israel expressed regret over the death of Raed Zaytar, a Jordanian judge, shot by Israeli soldiers at the Allenby Bridge border crossing. Maoist rebels killed 16 policemen in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. In Abu Dhabi a bidder spent £1.3 million securing the use for two years of the telephone number 777-7777.