Terrorism and local politics: The Week that was December 27, 1985 to January 2, 1986

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the wheel of the new 133mph Austin Rover car, outside 10 Downing Street. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: PA
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the wheel of the new 133mph Austin Rover car, outside 10 Downing Street. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: PA
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EIGHTEEN people were killed and 120 injured in simultaneous twin terrorist attacks at Rome and Vienna airports this week.

In both cases, gunmen opened fire on passengers queueing to check in for flights with Israel’s national airline El Al.

At Rome’s international airport three gunmen were among the dead, after six men with guns opened fire indiscriminately. Chaos broke out as passengers flung themselves to the floor for cover.

Italian police returned fire, leaving a trail of broken glass and pools blood. Unconfirmed reports said bombs blasts were also heard. Two gunmen were captured alive, and a third escaped.

In similar scenes across the border in Austria, three gunmen threw hand grenades into crowds of passengers queuing at the check-in desk for a Tel Aviv flight.

Kalashnikov rifles were then fired before the attackers escaped by car. A chase ensued, with police gunfire killing two gunmen. The other two were wounded and then surrendered.

Initially the Palestine Liberation Organisation was blamed for the carnage, but it was later believed that Abu Nidal, a disaffected member of the PLO who now fronted the Fatah Revolutionary Council, had masterminded the assaults.

Back in the UK, the Left had gained ground in Yorkshire constituencies the Labour Party needed to win to put Neil Kinnock into Downing Street, it was claimed.

Sources on the left-wing of the party believed that the re-selection process in key constituencies had resulted in a distinct shift among prospective candidates compared with the 1983 election. The same trend was apparent in constituencies where the sitting Labour MP was retiring or had been replaced by a new face.

However, the shift was not uniform. In Batley and Spen, the former MP Ken Woolmer had regained the nomination, and in Dewsbury, former Bolton MP Ann Taylor had been chosen. Both were supporters of Roy Hattersley on the Right of the party.

Austin Rover reported an export sales boom, with sales of its cars abroad leaping by 15 per cent to 104,000 in 1985 - the first time that foreign sales of any car had exceeded 100,000.

The company sold cars worth £300m to more than 50 countries, with the bulk going to continental markets.

The image of Hull as a “rather culturally barren, run-down, impoverished ex-fishing port” needed changing into one of a city where the arts created a visually exciting and pleasant place to live, said a report by Hull Artists’ Association. Spokesman Kevin Storch said the planned pedestrianisation of the city centre was an opportunity to create a unique area within the city to attract visitors and foreign tourists.

“Sculpture, correctly used, can give people time to pause and to see their surroundings in a new way,” he said. Artists could work with planners to bring about the change.

Alex Clarke, chairman of Hull City Council’s Planning Committee, said he was in favour of the idea and most people would welcome it – but the problem lay in who would pay.

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde reported that more women in the workforce brought more office romances – with time wasted in day-dreaming, flirtatious chat and lost productivity.

Business could be damaged when staff made passes at each other to the embarrassment of clients, and loss of concentration was detrimental to professional performance. Managers said they found it difficult to cope with this “delicate” subject.