The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 3 April 2004

A speedy round-up of the week's news

Text settings

Seven hundred police made 24 simultaneous raids around London, seizing half a ton of ammonium nitrate fertiliser in Hanwell, west London, arresting two men in Uxbridge, one in Ilford, one in Horley, one in Slough and three in Crawley — all British Muslims of Pakistani descent, aged between 17 and 32. Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, suspended immigration from Romania and Bulgaria in a scandal involving immigration checks. First Miss Beverley Hughes, the immigration minister, was found to have cleared backlogs by letting through unchecked applications from people already in Britain. Then the British consul in Bucharest was suspended after informing Mr David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, that immigration staff in Britain were ignoring letters from diplomats declaring that certain applications from Bulgaria and Romania were supported by forged documents; an application from a ‘roofer’ was approved even though he had one leg. A Foreign Office official had warned in November 2002 of ‘an organised scam’ in Bucharest. A White Paper on the formation of a Serious Organised Crime Agency proposed making evidence from tapped telephones admissible in court. A fire in a conduit 100 feet beneath Manchester put out of action 130,000 telephone lines. The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee found that Mr Iain Duncan Smith had not improperly employed his wife Betsy as a secretary; a complaint had been brought by Mr Michael Crick, a journalist, shortly before Mr Duncan Smith’s resignation. The Conservative party held a ‘summit’ on homosexuality to which only five MPs turned up. Cambridge won the 150th Boat Race, with the Oxford cox complaining of a foul clash of oars. Alistair Cooke, renowned for his Letter from America, which ran to 2,869 weekly broadcasts, died, aged 95. Sir Peter Ustinov, the actor, died, aged 82. Hubert Gregg, the composer of ‘Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner’, died, aged 89. Britain protested to Argentina after a naval vessel, the Almirante Irizar, demanded details of fishing permits from ships in Falklands waters.

President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines said, ‘We have pre-empted a Madrid-level attack by capturing a cache of 80 pounds of TNT intended to be used for bombing malls and trains in Metro Manila’; four men were arrested. In Uzbekistan two suicide bombers killed three policemen and a child in a bazaar in Tashkent, and a bomb killed 10 in Bukhara; the authoritarian regime in Uzbekistan has been an ally of the United States against al-Qa’eda in neighbouring Afghanistan. The Israeli state prosecutor recommended that Mr Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister, be charged with receiving bribes when he was foreign minister. Tunisia suddenly cancelled a meeting of the Arab League two days before it convened, on the grounds that foreign ministers had shown irreconcilable differences on democratic reform. In Turkey the ruling Justice and Development party won a commanding victory in local elections. President Jacques Chirac ordered Mr Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the Prime Minister, to reshuffle his Cabinet after their party, the Rassemblement pour la République, lost control to the Socialists in every region in France except Alsace. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, men said to be loyal to the late President Mobutu attacked military installations in Kinshasa in an attempt to overthrow President Joseph Kabila. Mr Marek Belka is to replace Mr Leszek Miller as Prime Minister of Poland on 2 May. A jet aircraft tested by Nasa reached 4,780 mph using an engine that takes in oxygen from the air. The European Space Agency orbiter, Mars Express, detected methane on the planet, probably of volcanic origin. Organisers of the Grand Prix in Bahrain supplied bottles of non-alcoholic fizzy drinks for the winner to spray about. CSH