The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 2 May 2013

Portrait of the week | 2 May 2013
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In the run-up to local elections, Kenneth Clarke, the Minister without Portfolio, described the UK Independence Party candidates as ‘clowns’. RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, assumed control of ten Reaper drone aircraft in use over Afghanistan. Irfan Naseer, 31, from Birmingham, the ringleader of a plot to use eight suicide bombers in attacks that could have killed thousands, was sentenced to five life sentences; of ten others charged, four men who admitted an offence of travelling overseas for terrorism training were sentenced to three years, and six men to between four and 18 years. Six men from the West Midlands pleaded guilty to planning to bomb an English Defence League rally at Dewsbury; five took a homemade bomb to the rally but arrived too late. The government signed a treaty with Jordan in the hope of easing the deportation of Abu Qatada. Theresa May, the Home Secretary was to apply directly to the Supreme Court for a hearing of its case against a ruling by the Court of Appeal against the deportation. Mahmood al Zarooni, the trainer at the Maktoum family’s Godolphin stable at Newmarket, was banned for eight years after 11 horses tested positive for anabolic steroids.

Max Clifford, the publicist, was charged with 11 cases of indecent assaults against teenaged girls and women between 1966 and 1985. An independent investigation into claims of historical child abuse at children’s homes in north Wales found evidence of 140 alleged cases. A Sinn Fein motion calling for legalisation of same sex marriage was defeated in the Northern Ireland Assembly by 53 votes to 42. A headmistress found hanged at her school in Worcestershire had feared it would lose its ‘outstanding’ rating in an Ofsted inspection. Luis Suarez, the Liverpool striker who bit an opponent, was banned for ten matches.

Michael Fallon, the business minister, outlined plans to privatise the Royal Mail in the next 12 months. The newspaper industry made counter-proposals on press regulation to those sewn up by Nick Clegg on 18 March; the new idea envisaged a royal charter without legislative control. Of 11 national papers, the Guardian and the Independent declined to back the new plan. Britain avoided a triple-dip recession in the first quarter of 2013 when preliminary figures from the Office for National Statistics indicated a rise of 0.3 per cent in gross domestic product. The funeral of Lady Thatcher cost about £3.6 million, Downing Street said, including police and other security costs of £3.1 million. The double yellow lines painted last month on both sides of an alley in Swindon, with a gap of 13 inches between them, were repainted black.


The United States reacted cautiously to claims that chemical weapons had been used in Syria. Five car bombs in Shia-majority provinces of southern Iraq killed at least 18 in a day; a week of violence between Sunni and Shia had left 200 dead. The owner of an eight-storey building housing clothing workshops in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that collapsed, killing more than 400, appeared in court. Primark, one of whose suppliers used the building, said it would compensate victims and orphans. President Ian Khama of Botswana was given stitches in his cheek after being clawed by a captive cheetah.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving brother of the two suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, was charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. New York police said that he had told interrogators that he and his older brother had meant to drive to New York in a car stolen after shooting a policeman dead, and launch an attack with five pipe bombs and a pressure-cooker explosive device. But they ran out of petrol. President Barack Obama said that the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, must close; he had promised in 2009 to close it within a year. As part of an investigation into poisoned letters sent to President Obama, a senator and a judge, a Mississippi man was charged with making and possessing ricin for use as a weapon; an Elvis impersonator previously charged was freed.

Enrico Letta, aged 46, formed a government in Italy at the head of a coalition between his own centre-left Democratic party (PD) and Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party. Unemployment in Spain reached 27.2 per cent of the workforce, with youth unemployment at 57.2 per cent. Willem-Alexander, aged 46, was enthroned as king of Holland after the abdication of Queen Beatrix, aged 75. A Swiss and an Italian climber were involved in a brawl with 100 Sherpas 24,500ft up Everest.