The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 16 April 2014

Portrait of the week | 16 April 2014
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Nigel Evans, who had resigned as deputy speaker before being cleared of a bundle of rape and sexual assault charges against men, questioned the right of the Crown Prosecution Service to pursue cases that were ‘decades’ old and said that people should not have to spend their life savings defending themselves. Sajid Javid was appointed Culture Secretary, with additional responsibility for equalities, while Nicky Morgan was made women’s minister, with the right to sit in the cabinet when she is sent for. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrat party, said that a higher council-tax band on houses worth more than £2 million, proposed by Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, instead of a so-called mansion tax, would be ‘fully deliverable’. He also said that money from a £2.4 billion fund would go to encourage house-building, with the founding of up to three garden cities, each of more than 15,000 houses. Mumsnet said that cyber thieves might have obtained members’ passwords from its site, exploiting the Heartbleed computer bug.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, flew to Washington, where the International Monetary Fund was meeting, to rub its face in the erroneously pessimistic forecasts it had made a year before of Britain’s prospects under Conservative austerity: ‘Our economy has grown faster than any other in the G7 over the last year and is now forecast by the IMF to do the same in 2014,’ he said. The rate of inflation rate fell from 1.7 to 1.6 per cent, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, and from 2.7 to 2.5 per cent as measured by the Retail Prices Index. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, went with his wife to Lanzarote and attempted to enjoy a cup of coffee at an outdoor table while dressed in beige shorts and the slip-on shoes he wore in Portugal last year.

Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham City Council, said that an investigation into an alleged ‘Islamic takeover plot’ of Birmingham schools had widened to 25 schools. Scottish independence would harm the Royal Navy and be like ‘pulling threads out of rope’, according to the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas. A man paid the Southeastern railway company £42,550 for unpaid fares, but retained anonymity and avoided prosecution; he had regularly travelled from Stonegate, East Sussex, changed at London Bridge and used an Oyster card at Cannon Street, which deducted only a £7.20 fare.


Groups supported by armed men in combat uniform without identification took over public buildings in towns in eastern Ukraine. Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, said: ‘It bears the telltale signs of Moscow’s involvement.’ William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, agreed: ‘There can’t really be any real doubt that this is something that has been planned and brought about by Russia.’ More than 10,000 people were evacuated from Valparaiso in Chile when fire swept through an old part of the city, killing at least 12.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria said during an address at Damascus University that the government had the upper hand in the civil war after a ‘turning point’. Boko Haram, the Islamist group, was blamed for a bomb that killed more than 70 people at a bus station in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Another 135 civilians had been killed by Boko Haram in north-east Nigeria, according to the governor of Borno state. Abdullah al-Thinni said he would step down as prime minister of Libya after only a week, as he and his family had been attacked by a militia. In Tripoli, the trial began of the late tyrant of Libya Colonel Gaddafi’s second son, Saif al-Islam, whom the militia in Zintan that had caught him in 2011 still refused to hand over.

A robotic submarine joined searches in the southern Indian Ocean for the remains of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing on 8 March with 239 people on board. A court in Lahore dropped charges against Muhammad Musa Khan, a nine-month-old baby accused of attempted murder of police. A man who had served two years in prison for making curry from the remains of a woman whose grave he had dug up was arrested by police in the Punjab province of Pakistan, who found the head of a child in his house. A seal pup that had attracted attention in Sundsvall, Sweden, after losing its way in the Baltic was reported to be ‘in good spirits’.      CSH