The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 23 February 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: the Isis suicide bomber from Manchester; huge rises in business rates

Portrait of the Week - 23 February 2017
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Theresa May, the Prime Minister, sat on the steps of the throne, as a privy counsellor, watching the Lords debate the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The Supreme Court upheld the rule that Britons must earn more than £18,600 before their husband or wife from outside the European Economic Area can settle in Britain. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan failed (on the grounds that they are of different sexes) in their Court of Appeal application to be allowed to enter into a civil partnership. The BBC said that in 28 out of 44 areas in England subject to NHS ‘sustainability and transformation plans’, hospital services would be reduced. The BBC is to spend £30 million a year on a new channel in Scotland. The BBC also investigated complaints that dialogue in its new drama series SS-GB was inaudible: ‘We take audibility seriously,’ it said.

Government finances recorded a £9.4 billion surplus in January, a touch up on January 2016, and with borrowing at £49.3 billion in the current financial year, it seemed likely to run up a deficit less than the £68 billion forecast. HSBC reported a fall in annual profits of 62 per cent to £5.7 billion. Lloyds Bank announced its highest profits for a decade at £4.2 billion. Kraft Heinz abandoned a £115 billion offer to buy Unilever, its Anglo-Dutch competitor. PSA, the French owners of Peugeot and Citroën, expressed interest in buying General Motors’ European operations, including Vauxhall, which has works at Luton and Ellesmere Port employing 4,500. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said that drivers of older, more polluting cars would have to pay £10 to use them in central London. Shops, hospitals and gentlemen’s clubs faced rises in business rates of up to 400 per cent from 1 April.

Kamran Sabir Hussain, the imam of a mosque in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, appeared in court accused of influencing his congregation to carry out terrorist acts in support of the Islamic State. The Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, said he had pressed the wrong button and thus voted against a report by the House of Bishops of the General Synod maintaining the position that marriage in church should remain the lifelong union of a man and a woman; the report failed to win support in the Synod because the House of Clergy voted by 100-93 against it. Lincoln City became the first non-league team in 103 years to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals, and will meet Arsenal, which beat Sutton, another non-league team. Sutton’s reserve goalkeeper, Wayne Shaw, resigned after a bookmaker had taken bets at 8-1 on his eating a pie on camera, which he did.


Iraqi government forces began a new assault on the western part of Mosul, still held by the Islamic State. A Mancunian, Abu-Zakariya al-Britani (formerly Ronald Fiddler), aged 50, reported to have received £1 million from the British government on his release from Guatanamo Bay, set off a suicide car bomb at an Iraqi army base near Mosul, said the Islamic State. The bodies of 87 African migrants were washed ashore at Zawiya on the Libyan coast. Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier, was jailed for 18 months for the manslaughter of a wounded Palestinian who had just stabbed another soldier. Three people in France were arrested on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack. Police in Barcelona arrested a Swede after opening fire at a lorry loaded with butane gas canisters speeding on the wrong side of the road to the port.

President Donald Trump of the United States named Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser to replace Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who had been sacked after 24 days. President Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, appointed his wife Mehriban as first vice-president. The American aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, with supporting warships, began ‘routine operations’ in the South China Sea, where China has been constructing artificial islands with airstrips. Gibraltar seized a 12,600-ton yacht with 300ft masts belonging to Andrey Melnichenko, a Russian industrial-ist against whom its German builder has lodged a claim for £13 million in fees.

A state of famine was declared by the UN in parts of war-torn South Sudan, the first declared anywhere since 2011.Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN since 2006, died aged 64. The North Island of New Zealand suffered a wave of thefts of garden ornaments, thought to have been stolen by methamphetamine addicts.         CSH