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, Mr George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, and Mr Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, held a debate on television. Many viewers had hoped one of them would fall off the tightrope, but none did. Mr Cable called Labour efficiency-saving plans a 'fiction' and accused the Tories of swallowing the fiction to fund their proposed cut, announced earlier that day, for low and middle earners, of the 1 per cent rise in National Insurance due in 2011. Earlier, on being asked whether he accepted Treasury figures that suggested deeper, tougher cuts than those made by the Thatcher administration, Mr Darling said: 'They will be deeper and tougher.' The Institute of Fiscal Studies said that cuts in departments not 'ring-fenced' would reach more than 25 per cent by 2014. The Office for National Statistics said the economy grew by 0.4 per cent in the last quarter of 2009, not by 0.3 per cent as thought. The government proposed that care for old people should be funded by a compulsory levy, but not by a 'death' tax. Labour gave out little plastic cards with promises on them to: 'secure the recovery; raise family living standards; build a high-tech economy; protect frontline services; strengthen fairness in communities'. Mr Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, made a speech in support of Labour. Cider-makers, fortified by a re-release of 'I am a Cider Drinker' by the Wurzels, protested against the 10 per cent rise in excise duty imposed in the Budget.

British Airways suffered another four days of strikes by cabin staff, with increased animosity between the company and the trade union Unite. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers made plans for four days of strikes from 6 April, the first national rail strike since 1994. The Prince of Wales spent the night with British soldiers at Camp Bastion, in Helmand province, after visiting Kabul. 'As a parent you worry the whole time. It's ghastly, ' he said of Prince Harry's service in the country. Mr Kevan Jones, a defence minister, apologised 'unreservedly' to Miss Joanna Lumley for suggesting to the Home Affairs Committee that there had been 'a deathly silence' from her about resettlement of Gurkhas. Camelot, the operator of the National Lottery, was sold to a Canadian teachers' pension fund for £389 million. The Independent and Independent on Sunday were sold for £1 to Mr Alexander Lebedev, the rich former KGB officer who bought the Evening Standard for £1 last year. …

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