The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 20 March 2014

Portrait of the week | 20 March 2014
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In the Budget, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the economy was working but the job was far from done. He expected further falls in unemployment and wages rising faster than prices this year. The economy, he suggested, would return this year to its size in 2008. Before the Budget, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that as many as 1.9 million working families could receive a tax-free childcare allowance worth up to £2,000 per child. Mr Osborne had announced that the help-to-buy scheme for new homes would be extended until 2020. He also let it be known that a garden city of 15,000 dwellings would be built near Gravesend on the high-speed line from the Channel. The high-speed railway from London ought to reach Crewe by 2027 (instead of Birmingham by 2026), according to a report by Sir David Higgins, the new chairman of HS2. But Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, conceded that a £700 million link from Euston to St Pancras would not be built, though the Euston arch or propylaeum would be rebuilt. A 12-sided pound coin is to be minted.

Stanley Johnson said that his son Boris should be able to stand for the Conservative leadership even if he wasn’t a MP. Tony Benn, the left-wing Labour politician, who renounced his peerage as Viscount Stansgate in 1963 under a law for which he had campaigned, died, aged 88. Clarissa Dickson Wright, the television cook, died, aged 66. Neil Trotter, 41, a car mechanic from Coulsdon, Surrey, won a £107.9 million lottery prize.

Four people died when a helicopter crashed in Norfolk, including its owner, Lord Ballyedmond, a Conservative peer and rich businessman from Northern Ireland. Simon Cole, the chief constable of Leicestershire, said he wanted to use stop and search more, even though the force was criticised by the Equality Commission in 2010 for disproportionately searching black men. West Bromwich Albion sacked Nicolas Anelka, who had been suspended for making the offensive quenelle gesture. The Football Association rejected Hull City’s application to change their name to Hull Tigers. The West End stage version of The Full Monty is to close after five weeks.


In Crimea, officials said that 97 per cent of voters in a referendum favoured breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia. President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a decree recognising Crimea as ‘a sovereign and independent state’ and then approved a draft bill on its application to join Russia. The United States imposed financial sanctions on seven named people, including Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president of Ukraine; Sergei Aksyonov, the acting leader of Crimea; and Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian deputy prime minister. Mr Rogozin tweeted: ‘Comrade Obama, and what will you do with those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or didn’t you think of that?’ EU members agreed to freeze assets and ban travel for 21 Russians and Ukrainians. A non-binding referendum was held in the Veneto on whether an independent Republic of Venice should be declared.

President Barack Obama of the United States told President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, on a visit to the White House, that he must take ‘risks’ for peace. L’Wren Scott, aged 49, the fashion designer and girlfriend of Sir Mick Jagger, was found hanged at her apartment in Manhattan. Six died when a gas explosion destroyed two residential buildings in New York. An earthquake of 4.4 magnitude struck Los Angeles, the strongest since 1994, causing no great damage. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain banned the Hollywood film Noah because it depicts a prophet, Noah (played by Russell Crowe). The Telegraph reported that a senior Fifa official and his family received $1.95 million from a Qatari firm after the 2022 World Cup was awarded to the country.

A telescope at the South Pole detected signs in the cosmic microwave background consistent with a sudden expansion of the cosmos a very small fraction of a second after the big bang. Malaysia asked 26 countries to help find a jet with 239 people on board, which went missing on 8 March. It had been intentionally diverted and its tracking devices were switched off. Weather and the crisis in Ukraine has put up food prices, with coffee rising by 72 per cent, wheat 12 per cent, pork 42 per cent and butter 18 per cent in the past year. In China, a hatch where babies could be abandoned at a welfare home in Guangzhou was closed after 260 babies were left in 48 days. Paris banned cars with odd-numbered licence plates for a day to counter smog. CSH