15 MARCH 1957, Page 7

Portrait of the Week

CRIES of disillusionment front the State Department and cries of 'We told you so' from everyone else have been re- echoing round the capitals this week. High hopes that the withdrawal of Israel from Gaza would herald a new era in the Middle East were boosted even higher by the final signing of the Eisenhower Doctrine and the appointment of an American mission to preach the glad tidings to the countries concerned. UN troops took over the Strip as the Israelis with- drew, there was talk of lifting the last obstacle in the Canal and all seemed to be set fair. The first trifling cloud was the announcement by Colonel Nasser that all ships would be allowed transit provided they paid all dues to the nationalised company, .thereby shattering the illusion that the status quo of October could bc restored, and, as recently proposed, half the dues paid to the World Bank pending a settlement. His later remark that he had not yet decided whether to allow Israeli ships transit at all thoroughly darkened the sky; the subsequent announcement that the Egyptian Government proposed to take over the administration of the Gaza Strip imme- diately, in spite of the arrangements made by the UNEF commander, might be the beginning of a hurricane. Through the hubbub comes the still, small voice of Mr. Harold Watkinson saying that the Canal is much less vital than it seemed a few months ago. Meanwhile Mr. Dulles has been telephoning the President from Australia. Vice- President Nixon has continued his triumphant tour of Africa. He has already earned the title of 'Nixon Africanus' from some American news- papers.

There have, however, been some more pleasant items of news. Britain is to be allowed to defer payments on the United States and Canadian loans of 1945 and 1946; the flow of oil from Syria has restarted by by-passing the pumps blown up in December. Mr. Macmillan and the Foreign Secretary have been in Paris for what appear to have been successful talks on a number of sub- jects, in particular British commitments in Europe. Mr. Macmillan assured M. Mallet that 'we should not tiptoe out of Europe.' Mr. Dulles made, in effect, the same assurance over the Pacific when he arrived in Australia for the third meeting of the SEATO Council. The political weather in those parts has been a little unsettled lately, for South Sumatra and Borneo have now followed other Parts of Indonesia in military coups d'etat against the central Republican Government.

In South Africa Anglican bishops have signed a declaration opposing apartheid in churches and the Government has introduced its Bill to Make segregation compulsory in all universities, In East Germany a professor of Berlin University has been condemned for treason, amongst other things, by association with the Hungarian revo- lutionaries.

Apart from some phenomenal spring weather, it has been a stormy week at home. The Govern- ment held its seats in the by-elections at Warwick and Bristol, but suffered an enormous drop in ;ts majorities, which in Sir Anthony's old con- stituency amounted to more than 11,000 votes. It has also had to cope with a deputation of doctors bent on discovering what the Prime Minister meant by his hint about an interim settlement of their pay claim, and with the possibility of a huge strike in the shipbuilding and engineering industries. An offer of arbitration under the Master of the Rolls was rejected by the unions as soon as it was made, their leader remarking that 'he was only concerned with his members, who come before the country.'

The Opposition has also been busy—wondering what the retirement of Sir Hartley Shawcross from the Bar portends, and watching with alarm the exchanges between Mr. Hugh Dalton and Mr. Herbert Morrison arising out of some extracts from the former's autobiography, which threw a very unfavourable light on Mr. Morrison's movements at the time of the formation of the 1945 Labour Government. The sight of Mr. Harold Watkinson being showered by bricks when he ceremonially blew up a wall in Birmingham may have soothed their feelings a little.