The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 15 November 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

Text settings

Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, pressed for the issuing of identity cards, despite lack of enthusiasm in the Cabinet; ‘An ID card is not a luxury or a whim — it is a necessity,’ he said. Mr Michael Howard, the new leader of the Opposition, chose Maurice, Lord Saatchi, and Dr Liam Fox to take on between them the tasks of the party chairman, from which post Mrs Theresa May was removed to become shadow environment and transport secretary. In a shadow Cabinet reduced to 12, Mr Oliver Letwin got the Exchequer, Mr David Davis the Home Office, Mr Tim Yeo health and education, and Mr David Willetts policy co-ordination (writing the manifesto). A council of senior men, not in the shadow Cabinet, was formed by Mr John Major, Mr William Hague, Mr Iain Duncan Smith and Mr Kenneth Clarke. Mr Michael Portillo said he would not stand again for Parliament. The lease of Conservative Central Office went on sale at £6 million. The police investigated remarks made to a local newspaper by the Rt Revd Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester: ‘Some people who are primarily homosexual can reorientate themselves. I would encourage them to consider that.’ The police concluded that the law had not been broken, although Mr Peter Fahy, the chief constable of Cheshire, said: ‘We need to be very aware of the position of minorities in the county and make sure diversity is celebrated.’ The Prince of Wales, abroad on a visit to Oman, of all places, had a statement issued denying unspecified allegations; an injunction had been granted preventing newspapers reporting them, but the courts permitted the press to say that Mr Michael Fawcett, the Prince’s former personal assistant, had sought the injunction. Mr Mark Bolland, a former aide to the Prince, volunteered the information in the press that the Prince was ‘emphatically not gay or bisexual’; Mr Bolland said that Sir Michael Peat, the Prince’s private secretary, had asked him a year ago: ‘Do you think Charles is bisexual?’ Sir Michael himself said that the unnamed source of the allegations, another former servant, had suffered from alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Falklands war. The Mail on Sunday had reported a year ago allegations by Mr George Smith, a palace servant, of an incident between a member of the royal family and a servant. The Countess of Wessex gave birth a month prematurely to a daughter weighing 4lb 9oz.

Mr Paul Bremer, the civil administrator of Iraq, was recalled to Washington for talks as the United States prepared for an early withdrawal. Six more American soldiers were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter was forced down on the banks of the Tigris. At least 12 Italians were killed when their police headquarters in Nasiriyah were destroyed by a lorry bomb. An explosion on a road used by British soldiers in Basra killed six Iraqi civilians. A car bomb attributed to al-Qa’eda killed 18 and injured dozens in a compound for mostly Muslim foreign workers at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the United States had closed its embassy earlier in the day because of intelligence about a terrorist threat. Turkey decided not to send troops to Iraq after all. As crowds of protesters gathered, President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia left the capital for talks with Aslan Abashidze, the leader of the Revival party, which came second in the disputed elections of 2 November. President Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka, who rebel Tamil Tigers say is impeding peace talks, clashed with the Prime Minister, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe; Parliament was suspended and an emergency declared. The Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Junichiro Koizumi, retained a simple majority after elections when the New Conservative party said it would merge with the Liberal Democrats, who have dominated politics for 50 years. The Revd Canaan Banana, President of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987, who was later jailed on possibly false charges of sodomy, died, aged 67. Iranian police broke up a disappointed crowd in Qom who had come to see the rumoured execution of a half-woman half-tiger.