The week in Review: Home news

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

SO THAT explains it, then. Slump, recession, everything. As the row over who paid the legal bills of Norman Lamont, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, gathered momentum, it emerged that earlier revelations that he had let a flat to a self-styled sex therapist had affected his ability to do his job.

Intrigue over the whereabouts of a sex therapist of a different sort also grew during the week as the police searched for Lindi St Clair, also known as Miss Whiplash, the leader of the Corrective Party. She disappeared last weekend leaving her hire car abandoned near Beachy Head, a notorious suicide spot, just after disclosing she was to expose 252 MPs who had availed themselves of her services. Police said last night they had tracked her to Florida.

Kelvin MacKenzie, the normally publicity-shy editor of the Sun, told the committee of MPs examining press intrusions in the wake of the Calcutt report that they were 'nuts' if they wanted privacy laws like those in the US. Those laws, he warned in a bruising confrontation, would have allowed him to print every name on Miss St Clair's list, and none would have had any legal comeback.

On the other side of the Atlantic they had their mind on other things with the jamboree to inaugurate Bill Clinton as the 42nd President of the US, leaving John Major trying to build a new 'special relationship' by backing the latest American air strikes in Iraq.

Mr Major's relationship with his own electorate faltered again as it emerged that the country was edging ever-closer to the point where 3 million people would be unemployed. Even the first hopes that the economy might be on the turn - shops reported brisk Christmas business - faded with the news that retail sales were down overall in December.

Part of the continuing sales slump might be explained by the discovery of a 17-year shoplifting spree by a 79-year-old widow who had filled her home in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, with 6,941 items worth pounds 60,000, all in their original wrapping.

As secrets go, probably the worst-kept one of the week was that five MPs from the Home Affairs Select Committee were to have lunch with Stella Rimington, the head of MI5, to discuss the 'Camillagate' and 'Squidgy' tapes. The little band was followed to the Gower Street headquarters of the secret service in taxis and on motorcycles by a posse of journalists, who duly 'doorstepped' the meeting. Mrs Rimington, the MPs told them on leaving, had been 'charming' and they had been reassured that MI5 was not responsible for the tapes.

The Princess of Wales, however, lost her cool with a press photographer who got a little too close, too often, during an official visit in east London. 'Stop pestering me]' she shouted, just before he was warned off by her bodyguards.