The Week in Review

THE QUALITY of mercy had a mixed week. Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, refused to recommend a pardon for Derek Bentley, hanged in 1953 for apparently encouraging Christopher Craig to shoot PC Sidney Miles - although he said he probably would not have approved the execution if he had been Home Secretary then.

Yet Norman Lamont, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose guilt for our economic woes is more direct and palpable, was reprieved by the Prime Minister, at least temporarily, from the resignation that was being rumoured all week. Mr Major concluded that Mr Lamont had handled the sterling crisis 'brilliantly'.

There was forgiveness all round, too, in the row between Britain and Germany over who blamed whom for what in the turmoil surrounding the crisis. It had all begun just after Britain withdrew from the Exchange Rate Mechanism, when British ministers and some newspapers put the blame on the Germans. Mr Lamont subsequently apologised.

Then the German embassy in London (run by Baron von Richthofen, a descendant of the First World War air ace known as the Red Baron) leaked a statement from the Bundesbank criticising Britain's monetary policy. Sir Teddy Taylor declared that the Germans were 'getting too big for their jackboots'.

The Bundesbank apologised for its indiscretion (athough Sir Teddy did not for his) and Mr Major said it was time to draw the line underneath the war of words. Yet at the same time he declared that the Maastricht treaty would be debated afresh in the Commons.

Amid all this, the Labour Party found it hard to get its annual conference on to the front pages. John Smith's maiden conference speech as leader won a mixed reception, the consensus being that it was less effective than his attack on the Government in last week's emergency Commons debate.

The conference had begun inauspiciously with the resignation from the Shadow Cabinet of Bryan Gould, who disagreed with the party's support for Maastricht and its refusal to countenance a referendum. For his pains he was voted off the party's executive committee, as was the abrasive left-winger Dennis Skinner.

As he enters the job market, Mr Gould might be encouraged by the fate of the man he used to shadow, David Mellor, whose own resignation had come a few days earlier. Mr Mellor has been engaged as a football pundit by the Sky sports channel. Antonia de Sancha is to be immortalised in latex on Spitting Image.