7 Days

Israeli elections The right-wing hawk Ariel Sharon won a landslide victory over the current PM, Ehud Barak, in Israel's prime-ministerial elections. The result signalled a rejection of the eight-year Oslo peace process and gave rise to violent protests from Palestinians in the West Bank.

Stone wins Michael Stone, convicted of killing Lin and Megan Russell in 1998, won his appeal against his conviction when a fellow prisoner - a vital witness - admitted making up his statement. The case raised concerns over the use in trials of "grasses" (paid police-informers).

It's a nightmare Thousands of commuters faced havoc when a strike by the train drivers' union Aslef brought the London Underground to a standstill. The strike by 2,000 union members resulted in the level of service being reduced to less than 10 per cent. Aslef members, who threaten to repeat the strike on 12 and 19 February, claimed their action was fuelled by concerns over safety in the wake of government plans to part-privatise the Underground.

Illegal immigration Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, outlined a series of plans to deal with Britain's asylum system, including a controversial proposal to encourage refugees to remain in countries close to the ones from which they fled. The plans were attacked by refugee organisations as illiberal. Straw's scheme was unveiled as Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, called for a new, common approach to immigration that would open Europe's borders to selected highly skilled workers from outside. The number of asylum-seekers in Britain reached a record 76,000 last year.

Failing prisons Martin Narey, the director general of the Prison Service, branded six prisons in England and Wales as "hell-holes" and incapable of reform. He threatened to quit his job if conditions in the jails did not improve.

This article first appeared in the 12 February 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Exclusive: how Labour could lose