Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Article excerpt

Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, apologised to the Irish for the effects of the potato famine in the late 1840s; `Those who governed in London at the time', he said, `failed their people through standing by while a crop failure turned into a massive human tragedy.' An off-duty officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary was kicked to death outside a bar at Ballymoney, Co. Antrim. The Irish Republican Army left 1,000 Ibs of explosives in a van on the Poleglass estate in west Belfast; youths set fire to the van during the night, but there was no explosion, as a detonator was absent. Senator George Mitchell reconvened talks about talks at Stormont, but Sinn Fein was excluded. Mr David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, appointed Mr Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, and Professor Tim Brighouse, the chief education officer of Birmingham City Council, to be joint vice-chairmen of a new Standards Task Force; the two men are on opposing hard and soft sides of education theory. Professor George Bain, the principal of the London Business School, was named as the first chairman of the government's new Low Pay Commission, which is to advise on the figure for a statutory minimum wage. The government imposed a guillotine on the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill. Mr Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, told a meeeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg that Britain would no longer oppose every proposal for the reduction of national vetoes. Mr John Major, the leader of the opposition, and Mr Kenneth Clarke both said that they now thought it would be quite wrong to try to join a single European currency in 1999. Cambridge was chosen by Mr Bill Gates's Microsoft computer company as the place to establish a new research group. The BBC suddenly announced that it had saved up 500 million, partly through selling transmitters to Americans for 244 million; it proposed to spend the money on the development of digital television. …

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