PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK
'I'm not sure of his working-class background, but he'll be less controversial than Mike Martin.'
Ater 11 divisions of the House, the Commons elected as its Speaker Mr Michael Martin, aged 55, the Labour member for Glasgow Springburn and a Catholic. The Labour party in the Scottish Parliament chose Mr Henry McLeish as its interim leader; the permanent leader will be named on 20 December; Mr John Swin- ney, the leader of the Scottish National party, challenged Mr McLeish for the post of First Minister. Mr Steve Norris, deputy chairman of the Conservative party, said strangely: 'I have no doubt that the first gay prime minister will probably be a Tory.' Mr John Prescott, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, said he wanted fewer compa- nies to operate the nation's trains, and two days later Connex lost its franchise for the South Central area to the consortium Govia. Mr Tom Winsor, the railway regu- lator, awarded £15 billion to Railtrack to renew its track and signals over five years; £4.7 billion will come from the govern- ment and £8.8 billion from train operators. The next thing anyone knew was that Rail- track suddenly closed the West Coast mainline to Scotland and the main West Country route, to inspect the rails. The government said that, after the publication of the report by Lord Phillips on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, families of people infected with variant Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease would be compensated and cared for; but pressure groups doubted the extent of the help planned. The police said that there was 'insufficient evidence' to bring charges against Mr Geoffrey Robin- son, the former Treasury minister, of hav- ing defrauded the Department of Trade and Industry when applying for grants in the late 1980s. Lord Holme resigned as chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Commission after a Sunday paper revealed an extramarital affair he had had. Peter Taylor, the manager of Leicester City, took on the management of the Eng- land team for its game against Italy in November. A 46-year-old classroom assis- tant broke a world record by screaming at 129 decibels in the Millennium Dome.
ISRAEL suspended its co-operation in seeking a peace settlement with the Pales- tinians after a resurgence in violent clash- es; more than 120 Palestinians and Israeli Arabs have died this month. An Arab summit in Cairo spoke strongly against Israel, pledged $1 billion for the Palestini- ans but specified little action. Mrs Madeleine Albright, the United States sec- retary of state, met Mr Kim Jong-Il, the leader of North Korea, twice in two days as Western nations supported rapproche-
ment between North and South Korea. The military ruler of Ivory Coast, General Robert Guei, said he had won presidential elections; but his opponent, the socialist candidate Mr Laurent Gbagbo, said he had. The feared and disgraced secret police chief Mr Vladimiro Montesinos returned home to Peru from Panama, deepening the political crisis in which President Alberto Fujimori has found him- self; 'I absolutely deny the possibility of a breakdown of constitutional order,' he said. Spaniards protested in the streets at the murder of a prison warder by Euzkadi to Azkatasuna, the Basque nationalist ter- ror group, its 16th victim this year. Greece angrily withdrew from exercises by forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation after jets under the command of Turkey, a fellow Nato member, intercepted Greek jets. Six Britons, said to be private detec- tives investigating marital infidelity, were found to have been held in Cuba for 16 days without being able to get in touch with British diplomatic representatives. Russia announced that the Mir space sta- tion will crash into the Pacific next Febru- ary. A French market gardener from Agen claimed that a pumpkin he had grown from Canadian seed had reached a world- record weight at 5201b.