The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 16 January 2014

Portrait of the week | 16 January 2014
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David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that English local authorities would be allowed to receive all the business rates collected from shale gas schemes, not just the 50 per cent they’d expect. Total, a French company, said it would invest about £30 million in drilling two exploratory wells in Lincolnshire. To head off higher borrowing rates, the government announced that ‘in the event of Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, the continuing UK government would in all circumstances honour the contractual terms of the debt issued by the UK government’. The annual rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, met the target set by the government for the first time since November 2009, when it fell to 2 per cent (from 2.1 the month before), but, measured by the Retail Prices Index, it rose from 2.6 to 2.7 per cent. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the EU was falling behind India and China. The Most Revd Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, is among 19 cardinals to be created on 22 February.

The Metropolitan Police announced that from April its firearms officers would wear video cameras. This followed the findings by the jury in the inquest of the drug gangster Mark Duggan, that he was lawfully shot dead by police in August 2011. The killing had been followed by riots all over London, and the death of five people; the verdict was met only by shouting and threats. PC Keith Wallis of the Metropolitan Police, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to misconduct in public office, after falsely claiming to have witnessed a row between Andrew Mitchell, then a Cabinet minister, and police in Downing Street in September 2012. Mr Mitchell, who lost his position, denied police claims that he had called them ‘plebs’. Monkeys in Paignton Zoo were banned from eating bananas.

William Roache, 81, a star in Coronation Street, pleaded not guilty at Preston Crown Court to two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in 1967. Dave Lee Travis, 68, a former Radio 1 disc jockey, pleaded not guilty at Southwark Crown Court to 13 counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault between 1976 and 2008. Rolf Harris, 83, a television entertainer, pleaded not guilty at Southwark Crown Court to 12 charges of indecent assault against four girls between 1968 and 1986. Freddie Starr, 70, a comedian, was re-arrested by police investigating allegations of sexual abuse from the past. An Afghan was granted asylum in Britain because he is an atheist, which could be seen as apostasy under sharia law.


Egyptians voted in a referendum, boycotted by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, on a new constitution undoing the Islamisation of the constitution brought in by the ousted President Mohammed Morsi in 2012, but allowing the military to appoint the defence minister for next eight years. In Syria, the al-Qa’eda-affiliated militia called the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) massacred more than 50 prisoners before withdrawing from Aleppo, driven out by former allies against the government. UN-sponsored talks in Geneva with Syrian government and opposition representatives were scheduled for 22 January. Google said it was going to buy the thermostat maker Nest Labs for $3.2 billion.

In South Sudan a ferry overloaded with refugees from Malakal sank on the Nile, drowning more than 200. Some 350,000 have fled fighting in South Sudan, with 9,000 camped around the UN base at Malakal. Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, the interim leader of the Central African Republic (where a fifth of the population has fled fighting between Christian and Muslim militias), said: ‘The chaos is over, the pillaging is over, the revenge attacks are over,’ but Robert Gribbin, a former American ambassador to the country. said on BBC radio: ‘There’s violence still.’

Valerie Trierweiler, the consort of President François Hollande of France, spent some days in hospital for rest and tests, after a magazine reported that the president was visiting Julie Gayet, an actress. Asked at a press conference whether Madame Trierweiler was still ‘first lady’, he said: ‘There is no status for the partner of a head of state, and there has never been one.’ Ariel Sharon, who was prime minister of Israel 2001–2006, died, aged 85, after eight years in a coma. Fires raged in Australia, with lightning starting 250 overnight in Victoria. In Yunnan, China, fire destroyed the 300 houses of the ancient Tibetan town of Dukezong in Zhongdian County, the name of which was changed to Shangri-La County in 2001 to attract tourists.         CSH