Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Article excerpt

Miss Betty Boothroyd, the Speaker of the House of Commons, told MPs on their first day back after the summer recess that `very serious' allegations affecting the reputation of the whole House (the so-called `cash for questions' affair) should be dealt with urgently, if necessary through augmented powers for investigators. The crossparty Standards and Privileges Committee said a few hours later that it would hold hearings in public once the parliamentary ombudsman, Sir Gordon Downey, had published his own report. Miss Boothroyd also allowed an emergency debate on the alleged intervention of a junior Whip in the matter. Mr Peter Thurnham, the MP for Bolton North-East, joined the Liberal Democrats, on the grounds of the Government's failure to counteract 'sleaze', that is to say, financial corruption; this did not affect the Government's majority in the Commons, since he had not taken the Conservative Whip for some time. Mr John Major, the Prime Minister, taunted Mr Tony Blair, the leader of the Opposition, for having been to a public school. Mr Michael Heseltine, the millionaire First Secretary of State, taunted Mr James Goldsmith, the multi-millionaire leader of the Referendum Party, for having a house in Venice, which he doesn't. The Government is to make illegal the possession of many kinds of handguns. The Ulster Unionists and the Social Democratic and Labour Party agreed that multi-party talks in Northern Ireland need only consider `decommissioning' of terrorist arms as the second item on its agenda. General Sir Charles Guthrie was named as the next Chief of the Defence Staff; some in the Navy were annoyed that the Army had been given another turn at filling the post. Water prices are to be reviewed by Ofwat in 1999, five years earlier than originally planned. Unemployment fell by 35,600 to 2,073,100. London Underground is to raise fares by 4 per cent, twice the race of inflation. …

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