The Spectator

Portrait of the Week – 24 October 2009

On the brink of a planned national postal strike, Royal Mail announced it was recruiting 30,000 temporary staff to deal with the existing backlog and the normal Christmas rush, twice the number usually taken on.

On the brink of a planned national postal strike, Royal Mail announced it was recruiting 30,000 temporary staff to deal with the existing backlog and the normal Christmas rush, twice the number usually taken on. The Financial Services Authority published rules to make mortgage lenders assess strictly the ability of borrowers to make repayments, and to ban ‘self-certification’, which had allowed a million borrowers to take up mortgages without providing evidence of income. Five prison managers faced charges of gross misconduct after the Chief Inspector of Prisons found that prisoners at Wandsworth and Pentonville had been switched on the eve of inspections. Mr Peter Hain, the Welsh Secretary, asked the BBC not to allow Mr Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, to appear on Question Time because ‘the BNP have accepted they are at present an unlawful body’. Mr Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, agreed to appear on the same panel. Police said they had received a complaint about an article in the Daily Mail by its columnist Jan Moir about the death of Stephen Gately, a singer in Boyzone, and the Press Complaints Commission claimed it had received 22,000 complaints; the article ended: ‘Under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see.’ The schools select committee criticised Mr Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, for overriding its objection to the appointment of a Children’s Commissioner that it said would be ‘another Labour establishment choice’; Mr Barry Sheerman, the chairman of the committee, said: ‘Most of us know that Ed Balls is a bit of a bully and he likes his own way.’ Mr Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, told the Major Economies Forum that there were ‘fewer than 50 days to set the course for the next few decades’ by agreeing about climate-changing emission: ‘If we falter, the Earth will itself be at risk and, for the planet, there is no Plan B.’

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