The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 3 October 2012

Portrait of the week | 3 October 2012
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In a well-received 65-minute speech without notes to the party conference, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, presented himself as a human being and concluded: ‘This is who I am. This is what I believe. This is my faith.’ Mr Miliband presented Labour as a One Nation party. He also said that if banks do not separate their retail and investment arms, a future Labour government would ‘break them up’. Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, said that 100,000 houses should be built with the £4 billion raised from the sale of the 4G mobile phone spectrum. Dave Prentis, of the union Unison, criticised Mr Miliband and Mr Balls for supporting a freeze on public-sector workers’ pay. Staff in Britain’s largest companies began to be automatically enrolled in a workplace pension scheme. Tesco saw its first fall in profits since 1994. The London interbank offered rate (Libor) will in future be set under a new administrator, instead of the British Bankers’ Association, according to the Financial Services Authority. Eric Hobsbawm, the Marxist historian, died, aged 95.

The government announced it would have to re-run the bidding for the West Coast railway franchise because of ‘mistakes’ in the process set by the Department for Transport. A man who stabbed to death his son, aged seven, and daughter, aged six, before killing himself, turned out to be the former member of the Household Cavalry who in 1982 was riding the horse Sefton when an IRA bomb killed four soldiers in Hyde Park. A report by Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board, into events leading to the jailing of eight men of Pakistani background and one Afghan, found that one girl had spoken to social workers several times about being abused, but nothing was done, officials believing that girls as young as ten coerced into sexual abuse were ‘making their own choices’. Megan Stammers, aged 15, from Eastbourne, was found in Bordeaux in the company of her maths teacher, a week after going missing. The teacher was arrested.

A march through Belfast by 30,000 Unionists, for the centenary of the Ulster Covenant, passed off peacefully, even though some bandsmen breached an agreement by playing ‘The Sash my Father Wore’ as they passed St Matthew’s Catholic church. The Football Association banned John Terry for four matches and fined him £220,000 — a week’s wages — for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during a match. Lieutenant-General Kuldeep Singh Brar, aged 78, who led the Indian army attack on Sikh militants in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984, was wounded in the neck by four men with beards near Marble Arch in London. William Middleton, aged 53, was seen by thousands on the internet with his head stuck in a litter-bin in Justice Street, Aberdeen; ‘I was looking for my hat,’ he said.


Greece drew up a budget that cut pensions, salaries and health care. Spain teetered on the brink of asking for a bailout via the European Central Bank after passing an austerity budget, while crowd protests continued and Catalonia clamoured for independence. At least ten died in flash floods in the south of Spain after weeks of drought. European golfers made a remarkable final-day comeback to win the Ryder Cup at Medinah, Illinois. An angler at Priest Lake, Idaho, found a man’s little finger inside a trout and police used fingerprints to trace it to Hans Galassi, who had lost it in an accident three months earlier; he said he didn’t want it back.

President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia conceded defeat for his party in parliamentary elections that gave victory to a coalition called Georgian Dream, headed by the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. In a speech to the UN, the foreign minister of Syria blamed America, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for ‘supporting terrorism’ in his country. A battle continued for control of Aleppo, where hundreds of stalls in the medieval souk burnt down. US military deaths in Afghanistan reached 2,000. Al-Shabab, the Islamist militants, withdrew from the city of Kismayo, their southern Somali stronghold.

The Iranian rial fell precipitately against the dollar. The Fars news agency apologised for relaying as fact a report in the satirical Onion that rural Americans preferred President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to President Barack Obama of the United States. The stock market value of Google, at $249 billion, outdid that of Microsoft for the first time. A farmer in Oregon was eaten by his pigs when he went to feed them; relatives found his false teeth in the pen.