The Spectator

Portrait of the Week – 30 November 2002

A speedy round-up of the week's news

The Fire Brigades Union and employers’ representatives agreed to a deal on a 16 per cent pay rise, in the early hours of the morning on which an eight-day strike was to begin. But the office of Mr John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, said nothing could be done till 9 a.m., and in any case, since no details were available on reformed working practices (called ‘modernisation’ by the government), no commitment to funding the deal could be given. So the strike went ahead and Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, broadcast to the nation, saying, ‘This is a strike they can’t win. It would not be a defeat for the government, it would be a defeat for the country.’ Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his autumn statement, said that he would have to borrow billions of pounds. The Law Lords ruled that ‘the Home Secretary should play no part in fixing the tariff of a convicted murderer, even if he does no more than confirm what the judges have recommended’; the government intends to amend the law to conform to the ruling. Ofsted noted in a critical report that only 52 per cent of 11-year-old boys and 68 per cent of girls came up to scratch in writing, whereas government targets were 80 per cent for this year and 85 per cent next year; literacy and numeracy at all primary-school stages also fell short. The Princess Royal was fined £500 for breaching the Dangerous Dogs Act by failing to control her bull terrier, Dotty, which bit two boys in Windsor Great Park last 1 April. David McRae, a naturalist, died from infection with European Bat Lyssavirus, an organism like the rabies virus, after being bitten by a Daubenton’s bat in Tayside. The Lesbian and Gay Police Association dropped the word lesbian from its title; ‘Lesbian has more sexual connotations,’ said its chairman, Inspector Paul Cahill.

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