The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 29 December 2016

Also in Portrait of the Week: deaths of George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Rick Parfitt, Liz Smith and Richard Adams

Portrait of the Week - 29 December 2016
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The Queen was said by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg to have asked, at a private lunch before June’s referendum, about the European Union: ‘I don’t see why we can’t just get out. What’s the problem?’ Mervyn King, who was Governor of the Bank of England until 2013, said that Britain needed to be more ‘self-confident’ about its chances outside of the economically ‘pretty unsuccessful’ EU. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, issued a Christmas message: ‘As we leave the European Union we must seize an historic opportunity to forge a bold new role for ourselves in the world.’ George Michael, the singer, died aged 53. Rick Parfitt, who sang and played with Status Quo, died aged 68. Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down, died aged 96. Liz Smith, who played Nana in The Royle Family, died aged 95. The Queen was too unwell to go to church on Christmas Day. In her Christmas message she spoke of ‘a truth expressed by Mother Teresa, from this year Saint Teresa of Calcutta. She once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love”.’

Voters would have to show an indication of their identity, such as a passport, driving licence or utility bill, in a pilot scheme at elections for some councils in England, including Birmingham, Bradford and Tower Hamlets, from 2018, the government said. Local authorities had used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, designed to monitor threats of terrorism, to spy over five years on people feeding pigeons (in Allerdale) and on dogs fouling pavements (in Lancaster), so the Guardian reported. Crystal Palace, under its new manager Sam Allardyce, who had resigned as manager of the England team after 67 days, drew 1-1 against Watford.

Hospitals in England collected more than £120 million in parking fees last year, an annual increase of 5 per cent. The British economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the third quarter, according to the office for National Statistics, revising an earlier estimate of 0.5 per cent; but the current account deficit in the same period rose to 5.2 per cent of gross domestic product, indicating weak exports despite the fall in the value of the pound. In the early hours of Christmas Day, police struggled for an hour to control 100 people fighting in Woking, Surrey. Scotland experienced blizzards on Boxing Day after Christmas Day temperatures of 15.1°C in Aberdeenshire. Scientists found that British ash trees were more resistant than those in Denmark to ash dieback, but faced a new enemy, the emerald ash-borer beetle.


A Russian military plane bound for Latakia in Syria crashed into the Black Sea after taking off from Sochi, with the loss of all 92 on board, 64 of whom belonged to the Alexandrov military music ensemble. Thousands of evacuees from eastern Aleppo were taken to Idlib province, still held by rebels against the Syrian government; about 750 were evacuated to government territory from the Shia towns of Foah and Kefraya in Idlib. Russia, Turkey and Iran discussed the future of Syria. In Turkey, the manager of a canteen was arrested and jailed pending a trial on charges of insulting the president after saying: ‘I would not serve that man a cup of tea.’ Work began on a bridge across the river Amur to link the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk with the Chinese city of Heihe. Nigeria confiscated two tons of contraband rice made of plastic.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, said it would reassess its ties with the United Nations after the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on Israel to ‘cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem’; the United States abstained instead of vetoing the resolution. The actress and author Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, died aged 60. Waterfalls streamed off Ayers Rock in Australia after the biggest rainstorm for 50 years.

Tunisian security forces arrested three men they said belonged to a terrorist cell connected to Anis Amri, the man suspected of killing 12 people by driving a lorry into a Christmas market in Berlin before fleeing and being shot dead by police in Milan on 23 December. Italy’s oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi, faces a capital shortfall of €8.8 billion, not the €5 billion previously estimated, said the European Central Bank after the Italian government proposed a ‘precautionary recapitalisation’. Ikea attempted to stop a teenage craze for hiding in its stores and staying overnight.            CSH