The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 22 January 2015

Portrait of the week | 22 January 2015
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More than 1,100 imams and Islamic leaders received a letter from Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the communities minister, saying: ‘We must show our young people, who may be targeted, that extremists have nothing to offer them.’ Imran Khawaja, from Southall, west London, who had posed for a picture in Syria with a severed head before trying to re-enter Britain, pleaded guilty to four terrorism offences and will be sentenced next month. Sir John Chilcot confirmed that the report of his inquiry into the Iraq war, which took its last evidence in 2011, would not be published until after the election. A workers’ dispute left 1,300 houses in Northern Ireland without water; some people boiled snow. The Prince of Wales took to wearing a monocle in private.

Lord Mandelson came out against Labour’s plan for a tax on houses worth more than £2 million: ‘I think it’s crude, I think it’s short-termist.’ Chris Bryant, the shadow culture secretary, said: ‘We can’t just have a culture dominated by Eddie Redmayne and James Blunt’; Mr Blunt replied in an open letter calling Mr Bryant a ‘prejudiced wazzock’. Unemployment fell to 1.91 million. British Gas, Britain’s largest supplier, said it would cut prices by 5 per cent from 27 February, and Scottish Power said it would cut its prices by 4.8 per cent a week earlier. BP said it was cutting 300 jobs in Aberdeen. A lorry caught fire in the Channel Tunnel, causing it to close until the next day. Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow in Coronation Street for 42 years, died, aged 60.

Editors of all the United Kingdom’s national newspapers wrote to the Prime Minister asking for a reform of the law in order to prevent police discovering journalists’ sources by examining their telephone records without a judge’s authorisation; the police had used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to obtain information from Vodafone about the telephone usage of Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor of the Sun. The Sun dropped its Page 3 photographs of topless women. Two men were legally married according to a pagan ceremony in a cellar in Edinburgh.


Vice Admiral Arnaud Coustillière, the head of cyber security for the French military, said that ‘structured’ groups and ‘well-known Islamist hackers’ had attacked 20,000 websites in France since the Charlie Hebdo murders. Four men were charged with aiding one of the murderers. In the south of France five Chechens were arrested on suspicion of possessing explosives a day after 800,000 rallied in Grozny, the Chechen capital, in protest against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed. Kurdish officials near Kirkuk took in about 200 Yazidi old people and children handed over by the Islamic State. An Islamic State video purported to show a masked man with an English accent holding a knife beside two Japanese hostages, for whom a $200 million ransom was demanded. The Nigerian Islamist army, Boko Haram, kidnapped at least 60 people in neighbouring Cameroon.

The Swiss franc soared after the central bank abandoned its cap on the currency’s value against the euro; Alparia, the London-based foreign exchange broker, consequently filed for administration. The European Central Bank decided, in the teeth of German opposition, to use quantitative easing to head off deflation in the eurozone. A European Commission committee voted to lift the ban on the import of Indian mangoes, but retained the bar on Indian aubergines. China’s economic growth slowed to 7.4 per cent last year, the weakest in 24 years. The Ukrainian military accused Russian regular units of attacking its forces in eastern Ukraine. Spain’s supreme court agreed to examine a Belgian woman’s claim to be the daughter of ex-King Juan Carlos, who abdicated last summer. Ward Swingle, the founder of the Swingle Singers, died, aged 87.

Six million people attended a Mass said by the Pope in Manila or got as close to the site as they could. President Barack Obama called David Cameron a ‘great friend’ during his two-day visit to Washington. Mr Obama, in his State of the Union address, said that after 15 years of terrorism and recession, ‘the shadow of crisis has passed’, so he wanted to put up taxes. Taiwan set about slaughtering 22,000 birds in an outbreak of the H5N3 strain of bird flu. An asteroid 600 yards across was expected to effect a near miss on 26 January, coming within 745,000 miles of Earth.       CSH