The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 4 October 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a speech at the Labour party conference that pointedly made reference to ‘Labour’ 20 times and never to ‘New Labour’; the party needed ‘not just a programme but a soul’. His performance was seen as a move to succeed Mr Tony Blair as Prime Minister. In his own speech, Mr Blair held out the prospect of a third Labour term. ‘I can only go one way. I’ve not got a reverse gear,’ he said. ‘After six years, more battered without, but stronger within. It’s the only leadership I can offer.’ Earlier, asked in a television interview whether he would have done anything differently in going to war against Iraq, he said: ‘Nothing. I would have done exactly the same.’ In his conference speech he said that ‘the security threat of the 21st century is not countries waging conventional war’ but ‘the threat is chaos. It is fanaticism.’ The seven-minute ovation he received was slightly undermined by subsequent debates on Iraq and foundation hospitals. The duty on petrol went up by 7p a gallon. Mr Mike Fuller was appointed Chief Constable of Kent, the first black man to hold such a position. The proportion of Catholics in the Police Service of Northern Ireland rose from 8.9 per cent to 11.7 per cent, but a survey found that 72 per cent of those questioned were deterred from joining the force by fears of intimidation. Postmen in London went on strike for 24 hours. The Royal Mail is to be fined £7.5 million by the regulator Postcomm for failing to meet targets for prepaid business-post services. Coffee Republic, the coffee-shop chain, reported losses of £9 million and said it was removing sofas from its branches, which have been reduced from 107 to 72. Robert Palmer, the singer, died, aged 54. The Welsh Assembly offered a single payment to save the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Llanarthne, west Wales, from bankruptcy; the gardens, opened in 2000, had not attracted enough visitors to cover costs. Mr Henry Ayala, aged 22, made 1,005 consecutive skips with a skipping rope on a wire 26ft above the ground at Billy Smart’s Circus, Bristol, beating the previous record of 875. Mr Martin Newland is to replace Mr Charles Moore as editor of the Daily Telegraph.

The whole of mainland Italy suffered a power cut at 3.25 in the morning, just at the time when Rome was holding a festive all-night opening of its bars and museums. The Pope named 31 cardinals, 26 of them under 80, the age-limit for electing his successor; the new cardinals included the Most Revd Keith O’Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh; another was appointed in pectore, his name remaining unknown. Mrs Laura Bush, the wife of President George Bush of the United States, visited President Jacques Chirac in Paris where she made a speech marking America’s rejoining of Unesco, the United Nations cultural organisation. M. Alain Juppé, a former French prime minister and a political ally of M. Chirac, went on trial charged with corruption; M. Chirac enjoys presidential immunity from prosecution. Mr Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission, resisted calls for resignations after a confidential report showed the disappearance of millions of pounds at Eurostat, the European Union’s data office. Air France and KLM, the Dutch airline, planned an alliance to form the biggest airline operation in Europe. The European Space Agency launched a probe, Smart-1, that will take photographs of the Moon; it is propelled by a solar-powered ‘ion drive’ that will accelerate it into lunar orbit in 15 months’ time. Edward Said, the Palestinian intellectual, died, aged 67. Elia Kazan, the director of On the Waterfront and other films, died, aged 94. The Australian government bought 50,000 sheep that have been stuck for two months in a ship in the Gulf and said they would be offered to Iraq as a gift for the end of Ramadan on November 25; at least 4,000 have died since they were rejected by Saudi buyers as too diseased.

CSH