The Week so Far

1. UK

The Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, opened the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair in London on 13 September. He said he was "proud" that the UK is the world's second-largest arms exporter. The sector employs more than 300,000 people.

2. North America

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney became the front-runners in the race to become the Republican presidential nominee, following a series of TV debates. Michele Bachmann is trailing in third place.

3. Middle East

Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Cairo on 13 September to offer support for Egypt's transition to democracy. The trip included a stop in Tunisia, whose ousting of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January inspired popular movements across the region.

4. Africa

Libya will be a democratic state based on "moderate Islam", said Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council, in his first speech since Muammar al-Gaddafi was deposed.

5. Entertainment

The comedian David Walliams raised more than £1m for charity after swimming 140 miles along the River Thames in eight days. He was advised not to swim the London section after Thames Water diverted 500,000 cubic metres of raw sewage into the river following heavy rainfall. "We're not public health experts, but I wouldn't recommend swimming through it," said its spokesman Richard Aylard.

6. Business

The Vickers report recommended that banks raise their capital levels and separate their retail and riskier investment arms, in order to prevent another taxpayer bailout of the system. The Chancellor, George Osborne, said the report answered questions that "should have been asked a decade ago".

7. Technology

Supercomputers could be used to predict revolutions, researchers say. Studying millions of news articles can map changing sentiments and their locations, according to a paper published in the online journal First Monday. Keywords such as "terrible" and "horrible" became more frequent in specific places before the Arab spring revolutions started, both inside and outside affected areas.

8. Science

Cats that glow in the dark could help in the study of HIV. Eric Poeschla of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, inserted the green fluorescent protein gene, originally found in jellyfish, into cats to monitor the function of genetic material related to the feline immunodeficiency virus, a close relative of HIV.

9. People

James Murdoch will be recalled to the Commons culture, media and sport select committee to give further evidence on phone-hacking. Murdoch, who oversees News International, the owner of News of the World, will face new questions about the paper's "rogue reporter" defence.

10. Health

Disaster victims trapped in collapsed buildings could be rescued by detecting chemicals in their breath such as ammonia and acetone. The findings, published in the Journal of Breath Research, could be used to develop an "electronic sniffer dog".

This article first appeared in the 19 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Meet the next Prime Minister

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David Cameron’s speech: a hymn to liberalism from a liberated PM

The Prime Minister spoke with the confidence of a man who finally has a full mandate for his approach. 

At every one of his previous nine Conservative conference speeches, David Cameron has had to confront the doubters. Those Tories who rejected his modernisation of the party from the start. Those who judged it to have failed when he fell short of a majority in 2010. Those, including many in his own party, who doubted that he could improve on this performance in 2015. Today, rather than confronting the doubters, he was able to greet the grateful. As the first majority Conservative prime minister for 18 years, he rightly savoured his moment. "Why did all the pollsters and pundits get it so wrong?" he asked. "Because, fundamentally, they didn't understand the people who make up our country. The vast majority of people aren't obsessives, arguing at the extremes of the debate. Let me put it as simply as I can: Britain and Twitter are not the same thing." Labour should pin that line to its profile. 

With a full mandate for his approach, Cameron went on to deliver his most unashamedly liberal speech to date. Early on in his address, he spoke with pride of how "social justice, equality for gay people, tackling climate change, and helping the world's poorest" were now "at the centre of the Conservative Party's mission". A lengthy section on diversity, lamenting how "people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names", was greeted with a standing ovation. Proof, if needed, of how Cameron has changed his party beyond recognition. The former special adviser to Michael Howard, who avowed that "prison works", told his audience that prison too often did not. "The system is still not working ... We have got to get away from the sterile lock-em-up or let-em-out debate, and get smart about this." From now on, he declared, the system, would "treat their [prisoners'] problems, educate them, put them to work." 

There were, of course, oversights and lacuna. Cameron reaffirmed his commitment to a budget surplus but glossed over the unprecedented, and many believe undeliverable, that will be required to achieve it (and which may fail to do so). He hailed the new "national living wage" with no mention of the tax credit cuts that will leave the same "strivers" worse off. His "affordable" starter homes will be unaffordable for average-earning families in 58 per cent of local areas. But it is a mark of Cameron's political abilities that it was easy to forget much of this as he spoke. Like George Osborne, he deftly appropriated the language of the left ("social justice", "opportunity", "diversity", "equality") to describe the policies of the right. Cameron is on a mission to claim ownership of almost every concept associated with Labour. The opposition should not sleep easily as he does so. 

There was little mention of Labour in the speech, and no mention of Jeremy Corbyn by name. But when the attack came, it was ruthlessly delivered. "Thousands of words have been delivered about the new Labour leader. But you only really need to know one thing: he thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a 'tragedy'". The description of Corbyn as the "new Labour leader" shows the Tories' ambition to permanently contaminate the party, rather than merely the man.

There are plenty of potential landmines ahead for Cameron. The comically lukewarm applause for his defence of EU membership was a reminder of how divided his party is on this issue. But today, he spoke as a man liberated. Liberated by winning a majority. Liberated by not having to fight an election again. Like a second-term US president, he was able to speak of how he was entering "the second half of my time in this job". Tributes to Osborne (the "Iron Chancellor) and Boris Johnson (greeted with a remarkable standing ovation) alluded to the contest to come. But whoever succeeds him can be confident of assuming a party in good health - and more at ease with the modern world than many ever thought possible. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.