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Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Brexit party triumphs, May resigns and Corbyn has an unhappy birthday

1 June 2019

9:00 AM

1 June 2019

9:00 AM

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The Brexit party, led by Nigel Farage, received 5,248,533 votes (out of 17,199,701 cast) in the European parliament elections, securing 29 seats — more than twice the seats won by the Conservatives (in fifth place, down from 19 seats in 2014 to four now) and Labour (down from 20 seats to ten) put together. The Liberal Democrats, with 3,367,284 votes, pushed Labour into third place by winning 16 seats (up from one). The Greens won seven seats (up from three). The Yorkshire party secured more votes than the right-wing English Democrats did in the whole country. The Animal Welfare party received more votes than the Women’s Equality party. Ukip won no seat and nor did Change UK. The turnout was 36.9 per cent, the second highest since the elections began in 1979. Labour won no seats in Scotland and the Tories won no seats in London. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, learnt on his 70th birthday that Islington, where he lives, had fallen to the Lib Dems. Alastair Campbell, the one-time adviser to Tony Blair, was expelled from the Labour party after saying on television that he had voted Lib Dem; other party big-wigs dared Corbyn to expel them for voting for other parties.

The damning rejection of the Conservatives and Labour in the EU elections was made before the dramatic resignation of Theresa May, the Prime Minister, as leader of the Conservative and Unionist party, though the election results were declared afterwards. May had walked into Downing Street on the morning of Friday 24 May and stood at a lectern to give 7 June as the date of her departure. Her last words were:  ‘I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold — the second female prime minister but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.’ With a sob, she turned on her heel and walked back into No. 10. Judith Kerr, the author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, died aged 95.


A dozen candidates soon popped up to tussle for the Conservative party leadership. Boris Johnson was the bookies’ favourite, if his name is put forward by MPs to the members for election. Jeremy Corbyn was urged to commit Labour to another referendum, but he restated the party policy of seeking a general election first.  The Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a formal investigation into the Labour party over allegations of anti-Semitism.

Abroad

In the EU elections, the Greens gained 19 more seats, bringing their total to 69 in a parliament of 751. In France, the far-Right National Rally led by Marine Le Pen beat by a whisker the Republic on the Move party of President Emmanuel Macron. In Italy, Matteo Salvini’s Lega won 34 per cent of the vote. Silvio Berlusconi, aged 82, won a seat for Forza Italia. In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party won 52.1 per cent of the vote. Spain leant towards the Socialists, though they lost control of Madrid in regional elections. In the Republic of Ireland (which elects only 13 MEPs, less than half the number elected for the Brexit party in the UK), counting was delayed by a row over which candidate should benefit from an extra seat to be allocated when Britain leaves the EU. European leaders, including Theresa May, met to wrangle for replacements for Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, and Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council. Ghana gave in to EU pressure and forbade the export of chillies for fear of spreading false codling moth.

The Bharatiya Janata party of the Hindu nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi won a convincing victory in the Indian elections. Hundreds of people were reported to have died in fighting in north-west Syria. Some 245 people were feared drowned when a boat licensed to carry 80 sank in Lake Mai-Ndombe, in the Democrat Republic of Congo. A Japanese man died on a flight from Mexico City after swallowing 246 bags of cocaine.

The Austrian parliament voted Sebastian Kurz from office as chancellor. The German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner advised Jews not to wear kippas in public because of increased anti-Semitic behaviour, but the US ambassador to Germany urged them not to hide their identity. A man was fined £8,800 after being caught smuggling 4,788 live leeches from Russia to Canada.                           CSH


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