7 Days

Straw men? Jack Straw tilted at asylum applicants who are "just trying to take us for a ride". A new bill will establish a special Home Office agency, removing cash benefits, taxing immigration advisers, raising fines for those providing transport into the UK, preventing "quickie marriages" and dispersing refugees to "reception zones" across the country.

More jaw-jaw Robin Cook and the US envoy Christopher Hill both rolled up their sleeves in an effort to advance the negotiations between Kosovan Albanians and Serbs at Rambouillet Castle, near Paris. Disagreements over the scope of the talks prevented the two negotiating teams from meeting face to face.

Carry on Ken Livingstone bypassed "the Millbank tendency" in an effort to secure a place on the Labour Party shortlist for Mayor of London. The former Greater London Council leader placed an advertisement in the London Evening Standard commending his loyalty and suitability to members. The party dismissed the bid as "premature".

Ofsteady Chris Woodhead, Ofsted's grand scrutiniser, narrowly escaped a Hoddle-style scalping after remarking that teacher-pupil relationships should not be considered a sacking offence tout court. The sound of old axes being ground confused the lynch mob just long enough for the cavalry to arrive, in the shape of David Blunkett, assorted media pundits and education reform supporters.

Wagons rollin' As the Good Friday Agreement's 10 March deadline looms, Mo Mowlam can draw succour from Geordie truck-drivers, delighted by her kind words about them on Parkinson. The Road Haulage Association put in a request for a batch of signed photographs of the Northern Ireland Secretary.

Complications The Health Secretary's promise to reduce NHS waiting lists by 100,000 patients before April was questioned after new figures showed a rise of 13,000 awaiting medical treatment. The December rise was, however, dismissed as a "blip", caused by flu and a meningitis scare that swamped A&E clinics throughout the Christmas holiday.

This article first appeared in the 12 February 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Kick out the image-makers

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.