The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 21 January 2012

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Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, commenting on the public sector wage freeze, said: ‘I can’t promise to reverse that now.’ Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said it was ‘absolutely right’ to place employment before pay rises. But Len McCluskey of the Unite union called it a ‘Blairite coup’ and Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union, called it ‘hugely disappointing’. Inflation fell in December to 4.2 per cent from 4.8 per cent (by CPI) or to 4.8 per cent from 5.2 per cent (by RPI). Thieves dug a 100ft tunnel to a video shop in Manchester over the New Year, and got away with £6,000; a similar tunnel had been discovered at the same place in 2007.

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David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that he was happy to meet Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, to discuss a referendum on Scottish independence, the date and terms of which were under dispute. The government is to consider proposals for a new airport in the Thames estuary nicknamed Boris Island after the Mayor of London. The government supported a scheme to give the Queen a royal yacht to mark her Diamond Jubilee as long as no public money was used. Police removed the tents of protestors in Parliament Square under the new Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. A model of the front door of 10 Downing Street, made by Brendan Jamison out of 5,117 sugar cubes, is to go on exhibition inside 10 Downing Street.

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Tesco shares lost 16 per cent of their value after the chain announced poor trading over Christmas. Management at Barratts the shoe chain agreed to buy 89 of its shops to save 1,100 jobs, but another 39 will close, with the loss of 680 jobs.

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