PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK
SERBHUMAN Mr William Hague, the Conservative leader, said party divisions should be set at rest by a poll of party members endorsing his policy of rejecting British membership of the European single currency (for this Par- liament and the next); of those who voted, 84.4 per cent said Yes to the policy, but of 344,157 voting papers sent out, only 170,558, fewer than 50 per cent, were returned with Yes votes. Mr Michael Hesel- tine mobilised opinion against Mr Hague's European policy, and was appointed chair- man of a new UK-China Forum by Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister — a move that hampered Mr Hague's attempts to appear authoritative. The Conservatives hit new lows in opinion polls; the Sun declared the party dead. Mr Blair visited China. Before he went, he backed the United States in its readiness to initiate military action by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces against Serb positions, and backed President Bill Clinton's ideas for invigorating the world economy. Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancel- lor of the Exchequer, met other finance ministers from the Group of Seven industri- alised countries in Washington to discuss the world economic crisis; they found growth prospects deteriorating, especially for 'emerging market countries', though later Mr Brown admitted that Britain too would fail to meet the 2 per cent growth rate he had predicted. In London the Finan- cial Times-Stock Exchange share index fell to its lowest point for nearly a year. Three more Britons were kidnapped in Checluiya. Mr Richard Branson, the head of Virgin, in a BBC wireless programme, said of his West Coast train company's failure to get Labour MPs to Blackpool the week before: 'We fucked up, we fucked up badly that day.' A cheese from Thirsk flavoured with coffee won a gold medal at the British Cheese Awards. Twenty tons of molten cheese blocked a road in South Wales when a lorry caught fire.
NEW BLOWS hit world finances. Banks in the United States saved the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund from col- lapse only by injecting $3.8 billion into it. Four senior executives of the Swiss-owned UBS resigned after the bank had to put aside £400 million to cover losses with LTCM. The United States Federal Reserve cut interest rates by a quarter of a percent- age point. Mr Clinton came up with a scheme to put $18 billion into the Interna- tional Monetary Fund, but had the devil of a job persuading Congress of the wisdom of the plan. In any case, he was busy contem- plating the decision by the judicial commit- tee of the House of Representatives to pro- ceed with impeachment proceedings against him; the committee had accepted 15 prima fade grounds, four more than Mr Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor, had come up with. The United States told the rump Yugoslavia, dominated by Serbia, that Nato would take military action, pre- sumed to be primarily air strikes, unless Serb police and Yugoslav soldiers stopped attacking ethnically Albanian people in the province of Kosovo; 300,000 people had been made refugees by the attacks. Mr Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy, visited Kosovo to talk to Albanian national- ists. The defence and foreign ministers of Russia, Serbia's ally, met President Slobo- dan Milosevic in Belgrade. The Pope visit- ed Croatia and called for international action to secure peace; he also beatified Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, the Archbishop of Zagreb during the second world war, who died a prisoner of Tito's communist regime. Mr John Howard's conservative Liberal party won the Australian elections; Mrs Pauline Hanson's anti-immigration One Nation party failed to win a seat in the House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament. President Fernando Hen- rique Cardoso won the Brazilian presiden- tial election. Gene Autry, the Singing Cow- boy, who sold more than seven million copies of 'Rudolph the Red-nosed Rein-