Home Peter Cruddas resigned as co-treasurer of the Conservative party after being recorded by undercover reporters from the Sunday Times encouraging donations with the prospect of private dinners with David Cameron, the Prime Minister, in his Downing Street flat. ‘Hundred grand is not Premier League. It’s not bad. It’s probably bottom of the Premier League,’ he said. ‘If you donate, you will be invited to events where the Prime Minister is.’ Downing Street rapidly published details of all Conservative donors who have had dinner there with Mr Cameron. German Gorbuntsov, a former Russian banker, was shot several times on the Isle of Dogs, where he lived, and taken to hospital, with a police guard. The temperature at Aboyne in Aberdeenshire reached 23.4°C, the highest ever recorded for March in Scotland.
The government revised its National Planning Policy Framework in the face of widespread criticism, recognising the intrinsic value of ordinary countryside and encouraging the use of brownfield sites, but retaining a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’; councils would have a year to draw up ‘local plans’. A student from Wales was jailed for 56 weeks for tweeting racist remarks when Fabrice Muamba collapsed with a heart attack during a football match. Only 37 per cent of dentists in Wales are accepting new NHS patients, according to the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Foreign athletes are to be forbidden from marrying during the Olympic Games, lest they stay in Britain.
Second-class stamps will go up from 36p to 50p on April 30, and firstclass stamps, prices of which are not capped by the regulator, from 46p to 60p. The government announced plans for a minimum price for a unit of alcohol in England and Wales, at 40p or more, with the aim of reducing binge-drinking. The price of petrol reached a new high. Tanker-drivers belonging to the union Unite voted to strike, and the Prime Minister’s spokesman said car-drivers would be ‘prudent to have contingency plans’. Six men from Oxford were in prison awaiting trial on charges of rape and child trafficking. Tesco Metro in Covent Garden had a ‘serious mouse problem’, according to environmental health inspectors from Westminster council, who ordered it to close till the problem was resolved.
Abroad President Barack Obama of the United States and Hu Jintao of China agreed to co-ordinate their response if North Korea goes ahead with its promised launch of a long-range missile in April. The government of Syria agreed in theory to a peace plan put forward by Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League envoy. The UN said that 9,000 had so far died in the Syrian crisis. The Pope was met by huge crowds in Mexico and said an open-air Mass during a visit to Cuba. James Cameron, the film director, visited the bottom of the Mariana Trench, seven miles beneath the surface of the Pacific, which had not been reached by a manned exploration since the first in 1960.
the spectator | 31 march 2012 | www.spectator.co.uk
Bertie Ahern, the former Taoiseach of Ireland, resigned from Fianna Fail after the Mahon Tribunal, investigating property development, found that he had failed to account truthfully for a number of transactions. A coup led by Captain Amadou Sanogo overthrew the government of Mali; many of the rebels had returned from service under Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. Fighting between rival militias in the southern Libyan city of Sabha left more than 30 dead. Mohammed Merah, the self-styled follower of al-Qa’eda wanted for the murder of seven people, was found to have been shot 20 times when his body was recovered from a flat in Toulouse surrounded by police. The al-Jazeera television channel decided not to broadcast videos it had received showing the attacks made by Merah. The airline Fly Congo proposed destroying six of its aeroplanes to restore confidence in its safety.
Mario Monti, the unelected Prime Minister of Italy, criticised Spain for not paying enough attention to public finances and risking a ‘trend that could spread to us through contagion’. The left retained power after elections in the autonomous region of Andalusia. State elections in Saarland saw Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union getting the largest share of the vote, with 35 per cent, but the Pirate party (which seeks internet freedom) polling 7 per cent. The Duchess of Cornwall was given a cardigan in the same Faroe Island pattern worn by the heroine of The Killing when she visited the set during a visit to Denmark. CSH