The Spectator

Portrait of the Week – 28 December 2002

A speedy round-up of the year's news

January. Twelve countries of the European Union adopted the euro as their common currency. Lord Birt was asked by Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, to draw up a report on transport. Rail fares went up and drivers went on strike. Connex South-East found it could get more passengers on trains by abolishing lavatories. Peggy Lee, the singer, died, aged 81. America flew al-Qa’eda and Taleban prisoners to a camp at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba. India and Pakistan stood on the brink of war. A Home Office report found that in London (where 8 per cent are black) 70 per cent of mobile-telephone thefts were carried out by blacks.

February. Lord Wakeham, a non-executive director of Enron, the bankrupt American energy company, stepped ‘aside’ from his post as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission while retaining his £156,000 salary. Mr Blair commended to Mr Adrian Nastase, the Prime Minister of Romania, a bid to buy its steel company by Mr Lakshmi Mittal, who had given £125,000 to the Labour party. Slobodan Milosevic, the former President of Serbia, went on trial in The Hague. Princess Margaret died, aged 71. The world’s oldest captive penguin died, aged 42, in Nagasaki.

March. The government sold the last 365 tons of the gold it was clearing from British reserves. Zimbabwe was suspended from the counsels of the Commonwealth after its presidential elections were found not to have been free and fair. The Queen Mother died, aged 101. Gareth Gates, aged 17, reached No. 1 with his version of ‘Unchained Melody’, with which Jimmy Young got to No. 1 in 1955.

April. The Queen Mother was buried in the same vault in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, as her husband, King George VI. Mr Blair flew to Texas to meet President Bush, who called for ‘regime change’ in Iraq.

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