7 Days

Savage verdict Viscount Montgomery of El Alamein regarded the African as "a complete savage" who would not be able to develop the continent, according to papers released by the Public Record Office. He favoured apartheid and thought Britain should control Africa's resources through three federations covering West, Central and East Africa.

NHS crisis again! Intensive care units are refusing admission to 20 per cent of patients. Flu sufferers are dialling 999, thus wasting the time of the emergency services, and taking up hospital beds needed for the seriously ill. Nurses are leaving to work for agencies providing shorter hours.

Uncivil war Rebels entered Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, attacking the Nigerian-led Ecomog forces that are protecting the democratically elected President Kabbah. The rebel army is alleged to have murdered and tortured villagers and to have set free prisoners, including members of the former military junta. Britain has committed £1 million in aid to Ecomog.

The fire this time On his visit to Cape Town, Tony Blair faced Muslim demonstrators protesting against Britain's participation in the bombing of Iraq. The Union Jack was burnt outside the British High Commission. Police fired tear gas and grenades.

Adventure holiday Five British Muslims are being held by the Yemeni authorities in connection with an alleged plan to bomb targets in Aden. Their families in the Birmingham area said that they had gone to Yemen for a holiday.

Babes in arms According to a report by Amnesty International, there are at least 300,000 child soldiers involved in fighting throughout the world, some as young as ten. The countries include Uganda, Sierra Leone, Burma and the Kurdish region of Turkey. Girls may be forced to give sexual services and boys drugged and forced into combat. Amnesty wants a new UN protocol raising the legal age of recruitment to 18.

Child molesters' breeding ground An inquiry revealed that, at the top-security hospital Ashworth, an eight-year-old girl had been introduced to paedophile patients, and porn had been sold on one ward.

Labour outlook good Unemployment was down by 26,000 to 6.2 per cent over the past quarter, while the number of claimants was down in December to 1.31 million, the lowest figure since June 1980. Employment has gone up by 297,000 over the year.

This article first appeared in the 15 January 1999 issue of the New Statesman, A slight and delicate minister?