Portrait of the week

The week: Royal Mail shares; American shutdown; Afghan cricket

12 October 2013

9:00 AM

12 October 2013

9:00 AM


An issue of shares in Royal Mail was oversubscribed, pushing valuation well above initial forecasts of £3.3 billion. The IMF forecast British growth for 2013 to be 1.4 per cent; its estimate in July had been 0.9 per cent. The Commons Treasury select committee warned the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the government ‘Help to Buy’ scheme was likely to ‘raise house prices rather than stimulate new supply’. Peter Higgs, from Britain, and François Englert from Belgium, shared the Nobel prize for physics, for their work on the Higgs boson.

Publicising GCHQ information ‘hands the advantage to the terrorists. It is the gift they need to evade us and strike at will,’ said Andrew Parker, the chief of MI5, in a speech, clearly referring to Edward Snowden’s disclosures. ‘Not one person’ previously deported from Britain had been prevented from boarding a plane back again under the government’s e-borders scheme, according to a report by John Vine, the chief inspector of borders. Proposals by the press to set up a regulator under a royal charter were rejected by the sub-committee of the Privy Council which approves new royal charters. The Privy Council is to meet at the end of this month to consider government proposals. School leavers in England are worse at maths and English than their grandparents and rank 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 developed nations, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Director of Public Prosecutions said it was ‘right’ not to charge two doctors alleged to have offered abortions based on gender, because it would not be possible to prove that gender alone was the criterion. The number of dissolutions of civil partnerships in England and Wales rose from 663 in 2011 to 794 last year; 7,037 civil partnerships were contracted last year.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP, was promoted from being a minister in the Department of Transport to a Home Office job as minister of state for crime prevention. Mr Baker replaced Jeremy Browne. Michael Moore was replaced by Alistair Carmichael as Scottish Secretary. Nicky Morgan, Greg Hands, Esther McVey, Matthew Hancock and Sajid Javid were promoted. Tristram Hunt, the TV historian, replaced Stephen Twigg as shadow education secretary and Rachel Reeves took Liam Byrne’s task of shadowing the work and pensions secretary. Jim Murphy was moved from the shadow defence portfolio to international development. Diane Abbott was sacked as shadow health minister; ‘I think Ed wanted more message discipline,’ she said.


In Tripoli, Libya, US special forces captured Abu Anas al-Liby, a suspected al-Qa’eda leader. Libya protested. On the same day, in Somalia, US special forces, with government backing, failed to capture Abdukadir Mohamed Abdukadir, alias Ikrima, a Kenyan Somali leader in the al-Shabab group aligned to al-Qa’eda. At least 40 people were killed in Cairo in clashes between police and supporters of the deposed President Mohammed Morsi. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan said that ten years of Nato forces in his country ‘caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering, a lot of loss of life, and no gains because the country is not secure’. Afghanistan qualified to play in the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

The European Parliament rejected a European Commission proposal to control e-cigarettes as medicine, but backed criminalisation of menthol cigarettes and snus, a chewing tobacco, except in Sweden. Britain still plans to license e-cigarettes as medicine from 2016. At least 274 migrants died after their boat caught fire and sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa. The Italian government survived a vote of confidence after Silvio Berlusconi failed to rally his party members against it. Facing bankruptcy over public-sector pay, Serbia decided to borrow money from the United Arab Emirates.

The Chinese government employs more than two million people to monitor internet activity, according to the state-controlled Beijing News. President Barack Obama of the United States cancelled visits to the Far East because of the partial shutdown of the US government since Congress failed to agree a budget. Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese general who defeated French forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and oversaw the Tet Offensive against American forces in 1968, died, aged 102. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina underwent brain surgery. Herman Wallace from Louisiana, freed on appeal after 41 years in solitary confinement, died, aged 71, three days after his release.      CSH

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