Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Article excerpt

Mr Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, is to pay back £12,415.10p that he claimed in expenses between 2004 and 2008; he had received a letter, along with all other MPs, on the day Parliament returned from its summer recess, from Sir Thomas Legg, aged 74, a retired permanent secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department appointed by the Members Estimate Committee as an independent auditor. More than £10,000 of Mr Brown's repayment relate to cleaning bills.

Mr David Cameron, the leader of the opposition, was asked by Sir Thomas to explain why he had needed to repay £218.96p in interest on the mortgage on his constituency home in Oxfordshire. In a separate affair Ms Jacqui Smith, the former home secretary, apologised to the House of Commons, on the recommendation of the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, for having wrongly designated her sister's house in London as her main home; but she did not have to pay back any of the money she had incorrectly claimed. Mr Brown announced that the government would try to sell the Dartford crossing over the Thames, the Channel Tunnel rail-link and the Tote. Previous attempts to sell the Tote failed in 1999, 2003 and 2008.

'Of course we're not going to sell at the bottom of the market, ' said Lord Mandelson, the First Secretary of State, 'we're not idiots.' Mr Brown had his right eye, through which he can see, checked at Moorfields Eye Hospital. Mr Brown agreed to send a further 500 troops to Afghanistan, taking Britain's commitment there to 9,500. The Territorial Army was forced to abandon training for six months to save £20 million. The Consumer Prices Index fell in September to an annual rate of 1.1 per cent; the Retail Prices Index, which includes mortgages, fell to minus 1.4; the pound fell against the euro and the dollar. Unemployment rose to 2.47 million. The Communication Workers Union voted to hold national postal strikes. Amazon, the internet booksellers, made plans to use other carriers.

Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly enjoyed an address by Mrs Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, who hinted that the Americans might invest in the province if its devolved administration could agree on running its own policing and justice department. Ian Wallace, the opera singer and regular participant in My Music, died, aged 90.

Neighbours wrapped Rita Longbottom, an 80-year-old woman with dementia, in blankets while they waited for a locksmith to let her into her flat in Southport, Lancashire, because they had been told that the warden of their sheltered housing could not come downstairs and open the door as it would breach a European working time directive. …

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