The Spectator

Portrait of the Week – 4 January 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

A third of families entitled to working family tax credits are not claiming them; 604,000 low-income families are missing out on £1.4 billion, an average of £42 a week each. The Tories are looking for ways to cut taxes, according to Mr Howard Flight, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury; ‘It could be up to 20 per cent,’ he said. Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and his family returned to Sharm el Sheikh, in Egypt, for an end-of-year holiday; they are paying for the holiday instead of letting the Egyptian government do so, as it did last year. There was an argument about who should decide if the England cricket team should play in Zimbabwe. Miss Nina Bawden, whose husband Austen Kark was killed in the rail crash at Potters Bar last May, called for the ‘guilty men to be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter’. A passenger set fire to a train from Banbury to Paddington, destroying a carriage. A 17-seat aeroplane hit a flock of birds on take-off at Aberdeen, crashed and hit a passing car and burst into flames, but no one was killed. Police arrested a driver on a Lincolnshire dual-carriageway after a lorry driver noticed that his car was missing its front offside wheel. Joe Strummer of the Clash died, aged 50. Jake Thackray, who sang songs such as ‘La Di Dah’ to his own guitar accompaniment, died, aged 63. Part of the West Pier at Brighton fell into the sea. Mr Ian Sutherland, a Norfolk landscape gardener, has turned his old hip joint, removed during a replacement operation, into the handle of a walking stick; the shaft is privet. In the New Year honours there were three new Companions of Honour: Howard Hodgkin, the painter; James Lovelock, the scientist; and Sir Denis Mahon, the picture collector.

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