The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 16 June 2012

Portrait of the week | 16 June 2012
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The Church of England opposed government plans for gay marriage, noting that if they were brought into law, the European Court of Human Rights would probably oblige churches to perform such marriages. Michael Gove, the education secretary, said he expected children of five to recite poetry. Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, in evidence to the Leveson inquiry, flatly contradicted evidence that Rupert Murdoch had given about their dealings. Edinburgh saw 39 confirmed and 49 suspected cases of legionnaires’ disease, which killed one man. David Cameron and his wife, it was discovered, accidentally left their eight-year-old daughter behind in a pub one Sunday lunchtime this year. There was widespread flooding in England and Wales. Thames Water lifted its hosepipe ban.

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The Queen said that it had been a ‘humbling experience’ to attend the events of her Diamond Jubilee, which included a pageant of 1,000 boats on the Thames in the rain, witnessed by more than a million, a concert outside Buckingham Palace and a service in St Paul’s. ‘It has touched me deeply to see so many thousands of families, neighbours and friends celebrating together,’ she said. The Duke of Edinburgh, taken ill with a bladder infection after the river pageant, was discharged from hospital, where he had spent five days, on the eve of his 91st birthday. The Olympic opening ceremony on 27 July will involve 70 sheep, 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese and three sheepdogs.

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The median rise in pay for FTSE 100 chief executives was 10 per cent last year, making it 139 times their employees’ average earnings (against 47 times in 1998). Marks and Spencer said it was opening its own bank in 50 branches, backed by HSBC. BP set about trying to sell its 50 per cent stake in TNK-BP, its Russian joint venture. Six men were sentenced to between 12 and 30 years in prison for their parts in setting fire to a pub in Birmingham during last August’s riots and shooting at police. Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, is to resign his seat at Westminster, to which he has been repeatedly elected since 1997 but never taken; four other Sinn Fein MPs will resign their Stormont seats. A 292ft tall slab of flats at the Red Road estate in Glasgow, built in the 1960s, was demolished with 600lb of explosives.

Abroad

Eurozone finance ministers made available a €100 billion loan for Spain from the European Financial Stability Facility and the European Stability Mechanism. During negotiations, Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, had sent his finance minister a text saying: ‘Resist, we are the 4th power of the EZ. Spain is not Uganda.’ Details of the deal depended on an audit of Spain’s beleaguered banks. Fitch downgraded the credit rating of 18 of them. The ten-year cost of borrowing for Spain rose to its highest since the euro was invented, above 6.8 per cent. Ireland had earlier voted in a referendum in favour of the eurozone fiscal pact by 60.3 per cent to 39.7 per cent, with a turnout of 50 per cent. Cyprus sought a bailout too. President Barack Obama of the United States called upon European leaders to steer the eurozone away from crisis. José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said that the banks of all 27 EU members should come under a single supervisor from next year.

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In Syria 78 people were said to have been massacred at the Sunni village of Qubair by neighbouring Alawites. The anti-government Free Syrian Army was reported to have attacked a power station in Damascus. Government forces moved in on the town of Haffa. The opposition Syrian National Council, meeting in Istanbul, chose Abdelbaset Sayda, a Kurd, as its leader. Russia and China warned against intervention by Western powers. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said that attack helicopters were being sent from Russia to Syria.

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The first round in the French legislative elections gave President François Hollande hope for a Socialist majority. US unemployment rose to 8.2 per cent. China cut interest rates for the first time since 2008. Thousands protested in Moscow against the government of Vladimir Putin. Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, the Jamaican drug lord, was sentenced by a New York federal court to 23 years in prison. Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, died, aged 91. Al-Shabab, the Somali affiliates of al-Qa’eda, offered a reward of 10 camels for information on the whereabouts of President Obama.