Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Article excerpt

Mr Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his preBudget statement, made rude gestures at bonusearning bankers by levying a 50 per cent tax, for one year only, payable by the bank, on any bonus over £25,000. In surveying the borrowings of £178 billion that Britain will make this year, he left total spending plans unchanged, putting borrowing at £176 billion next year, £3 billion higher than predicted. He put the shrinkage in the economy this year at 4.75 per cent, not 3.5 per cent as hoped, and he predicted growth of a heroic 3.25 per cent for four years starting in April 2011. National Insurance goes up in 2011 by 0.5 per cent.

Bingo duty goes down by 2 per cent. In a pre-emptive strike, Mr Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, attacked a 'culture of excess' among higher-earners in the public sector. Lending to small and mediumsized businesses by Royal Bank of Scotland RBS (70 per cent state-owned) and Lloyds Banking Group (43 per cent state-owned) would not meet the levels they had agreed to, according to the National Audit Office.

An inquiry into the Student Loan Company found a 'conspicuous failure' in services as thousands of students were left unprovided for this year.

Baroness Young of Old Scone resigned as chairman of the Care Quality Commission after a year. Her departure was announced a week after a report from the Dr Foster Intelligence unit had rated a dozen hospitals as 'significantly underperforming', despite nine of them being rated good or excellent by the CQC. The Office for National Statistics said that 11 per cent of the British population was born abroad, with 24 per cent of births being to mothers born abroad.

The number of very poor households is at its highest for 25 years, at 5.7 million, according to a study by the New Policy Institute. A house in Goldhawk Road, Shepherd's Bush, west London, only 5ft 6in wide, went on sale for £549,950.

Professor Phil Jones, the director of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit said that he would stand down from his post while an independent inquiry was undertaken by Sir Muir Russell, the vicechancellor of Glasgow University, into claims that CRU scientists manipulated data on global warming. Just before the United Nations summit on climate in Copenhagen began, Mr Gordon Brown said: 'We mustn't be distracted by the behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics.' Lord Mandelson, the First Secretary of State, in response to being likened by Mr James Naughtie, a radio journalist on the Today programme, to the Gilbert and Sullivan character Pooh-Bah, asked: 'Who is Pooh-Bah? …

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