7 Days

Trimble back David Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, returned as Northern Ireland's First Minister four days after failing to get a majority of his own party members in the Northern Ireland assembly. Members of the Alliance Party temporarily re-designated themselves as Unionsts to secure his re-election.

Islam pledge rejected The Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, refused to sign a pledge promising not to use inflammatory language against Muslims. The pledge was signed by Tony Blair and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy. Duncan Smith said that he would "always be intolerant of those who are intolerant of others".

Breast cancer soars A survey revealed that breast cancer is now the most common form of cancer in the UK, with 39,500 new cases diagnosed each year, outnumbering even those of lung cancer. However, according to the survey, breast cancer survival rates are improving; researchers estimate that more than 70 per cent of all patients receive successful treatment.

Michelle wreaks havoc Hurricane Michelle, the worst storm to hit Cuba in 50 years, pounded the island. Torrential rain and winds of up to 135mph forced an estimated 750,000 people to evacuate their homes and left five people dead.

Spanish blast A car bomb near Madrid city centre exploded, injuring nearly 100 people, including a senior government minister and a British national. The Basque separatist group ETA is believed to be responsible. Two people have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Jewish imports The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, further antagonised Palestinians by announcing plans to encourage another million Jews to settle in Israel. Palestinians fear the new immigrants will expand the settlements in Palestinian territories on the West Bank and Gaza.

This article first appeared in the 12 November 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - The Empire strikes back

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.