The Spectator

Portrait of the Week – 8 March 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said in a speech in Swansea: ‘In 1938 Chamberlain was a hero when he brought back the Munich agreement. And he did it for the best of motives. He had seen members of his precious family, people he loved, die in the carnage of World War I. He was a good man. But he was a good man who made the wrong decision.’ This followed a motion in the Commons on action against Iraq passed by a majority of 194, but opposed by 199 MPs – 121 of them Labour – who supported an amendment stating that the case for war was ‘as yet unproven’. London is to hold an exercise simulating a ‘catastrophic incident’, according to Mr David Blunkett, the Home Secretary. Mr Blair and Mr Bertie Ahern, the Irish Taoiseach, went to Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, for talks with parties supporting the Belfast agreement of 1998; it had been hoped that the Irish Republican Army would announce the giving-up of hidden arms dumps on 17 March, but negotiations became bogged down, and the first consequence was the postponing of elections to the assembly by a month. The International Monetary Fund said in its annual report on the British economy that Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should raise taxes and reduce public spending to avoid making the hole in Treasury finances bigger. The number of asylum seekers who arrived in Britain last year rose by 20 per cent over the year before to 110,000. A black man whose sperm was mistakenly used at an in-vitro fertilisation clinic was declared by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the senior judge in the family division, to be the legal father of a white woman’s twins. Sir Malcolm Williamson, the Master of the Queen’s Music, died, aged 71.

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