Portrait of the week

The week: 'Land of opportunity'; Obama phones Iran; glow-in-the-dark robber

5 October 2013

9:00 AM

5 October 2013

9:00 AM


Shares in Royal Mail are to be sold by the middle of this month, before postmen can go on strike; the company is valued at between £2.6 billion and £3.3 billion. The Church Commissioners, an investment arm of the Church of England, became part owners of the resurrected Williams and Glyn’s bank which will open branches relinquished by the Royal Bank of Scotland. The minimum wage for those aged 16 or 17 rose by 4p to £3.72 an hour; for those aged 18-20 by 5p to £5.03; and for those older by 12p to £6.31. Poundland, which has 458 shops in the British Isles, said it wanted to open 1,000. Teachers belonging to the NUT and NASUWT unions went on strike for a day, closing 2,500 schools. A London Duck Tours craft, Cleopatra, burst into flames in shallow waters in the Thames, into which passengers jumped.

At the Conservative conference in Manchester, David Cameron, the party leader, said he sought ‘a land of opportunity’ in which businesses put money into people’s pockets. A scheme to help people get 95 per cent mortgages was brought forward by three months. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the Tories would achieve a budget surplus by 2020. Asked about Boris Johnson, Mr Cameron said it would be ‘great to have Boris back’ in the House of Commons. Mr Cameron admitted he didn’t know the price of a supermarket loaf; Mr Johnson that he didn’t know the price of a pint of milk. The slogan of the conference was ‘For hardworking people’, a variant of the former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown’s catchphrase ‘hardworking families’. The ashes of Lady Thatcher were buried at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour party, wrote in the Daily Mail to defend his father, the late Ralph Miliband, a Marxist academic, whom a commentator in the paper had accused of hating Britain. Tom Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales, was criticised for wearing a uniform at a police memorial service although he has never served as a policeman; the inspectorate said that ‘uniforms associated with the role of Inspectors of Constabulary are not police uniforms’. Yafet Askale, 28, who broke into a car in Harlesden set as a trap by police, was convicted of theft after a spray left his face glowing green under ultraviolet light. In Somerset, 25,000 eels were released into Blagdon Lake, a reservoir, as part of a scheme to restock British waterways.


President Barack Obama of the United States spoke on the telephone to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, the first such conversation for more than 30 years. The UN Security Council passed a binding resolution requiring Syria to abandon its chemical weapons and allow weapons inspectors to check that it has. Syria’s neighbours — Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq — pleaded for help with the two million refugees who have fled the civil war. In Iraq, car bombs killed at least 47 in one day in Shia districts of Baghdad; 979 were killed in Iraq in September. Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorists, murdered about 50 students as they slept, in an agricultural college in Yobe, a northern state of Nigeria.

The Statue of Liberty was closed as one of the casualties of the partial shutdown of the American government after the two houses of Congress failed to agree a budget. The majority Republican House of Representatives wanted Mr Obama’s healthcare measures to be delayed before passing a budget bill. Four MPs sitting in the Greek parliament for the far-right Golden Dawn party appeared in court, charged with belonging to a criminal group. In Bangladesh an opposition MP was sentenced to death on charges of murder during the war of independence in 1971. In Italy, five ministers loyal to Silvio Berlusconi, the disgraced former prime minister, resigned from the government, plunging the coalition into crisis.

Scientists are 95 per cent certain that humans have been the ‘dominant cause’ of global warming since the 1950s, the International Panel on Climate Change reported. Hungary passed a law against sleeping in the street or in huts in the woods. Pope John XXIII (died 1963) and Pope John Paul II (died 2005) are to be canonised on 27 April. A fox stole balls in play at a golf course in Verbier in Switzerland.        CSH

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