The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 1 June 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: British Airways computer meltdown his 75,000 passengers; bombing and butchery by Islamic State

Portrait of the week | 1 June 2017
Text settings


The Conservatives grew restive when polls, for what they were worth, indicated a closing gap between their support and Labour’s. In a generally uneventful 90 minutes of television, in which Theresa May, the leader of the Conservative party, and Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, were questioned, Jeremy Paxman said to Mrs May: ‘If I was sitting in Brussels and I was looking at you as the person I had to negotiate with, I’d think, she’s a blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gunfire.’ Mr Corbyn said in an earlier interview with Andrew Neil: ‘I never met the IRA,’ leaving viewers wondering in what sense this could be true. Andrew Marr questioned Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, about her 1980s statement regarding the IRA that ‘a defeat for the British state would be a great liberation’; she replied: ‘It was 34 years ago. I had a rather splendid afro at the time. I don’t have the same hairstyle and I don’t have same views.’

Perhaps 75,000 passengers of British Airways — owned by the IAG group — were left waiting for hours without information or help when the airline’s computers stopped working over the bank holiday weekend. Luggage was separated from would-be travellers; passengers slept on yoga mats. Alex Cruz, the chief executive of BA, said the cause was a power surge and not a cyber attack; he also said the failure was not due to technical staff being outsourced to India. John Noakes, a presenter of Blue Peter from 1965 to 1978, died aged 83. A tiger killed a keeper at Hamerton Zoo Park in Huntingdonshire.

Police investigating the murder of 22 people by Salman Abedi, who exploded a bomb at Manchester Arena, arrested more than a dozen men. The UK terrorism threat level was reduced from critical to severe, meaning that another attack was ‘highly likely’. MI5 began an inquiry into how it dealt with warnings the public had given about Abedi. Six men who had accused the late Lord Janner of child sexual abuse discontinued a civil case that had sought damages from his estate. Rolf Harris, aged 87, was cleared of four sexual assault charges after a jury could not reach verdicts. A judge told the BBC that it must reveal whether it was told by people involved in Operation Yewtree about a police raid in 2014 on Sir Cliff Richard’s apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, from which no charges followed and about which Sir Cliff, aged 76, has sued the BBC.


At least 28 Coptic Christians were shot dead in the desert of Minya province in Egypt as they travelled by bus to the monastery of St Samuel the Confessor, 180 miles south of Cairo. The Pope called the murdered Copts ‘martyrs’. The Islamic State (Isis) later said it had been responsible. Egypt sent fighter jets to make six air strikes against a suspected terrorist training camp in Libya, followed by more air strikes the next day. Iraqi forces renewed their assault on Isis in the old city of Mosul, where thousands of civilians were in danger but feared being shot by Isis fighters if they fled. The Islamic State also set off a car bomb outside an ice-cream parlour in Baghdad where Shia Muslims were breaking their Ramadan fast, killing 15 people; another car bomb on the same day killed 11 at a pensions office in Baghdad. In Kabul a vehicle bomb killed at least 80 and wounded more than 350.

Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Donald Trump of the United States, was alleged by the New York Times and the Washington Post to have spoken in December with the Russian ambassador about setting up a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow to avoid US interception of discussions. Mike Dubke resigned as White House communications director. Zbigniew Brzezinski, an adviser to President Lyndon Johnson, 1966-68, and National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, 1977-81, died aged 89. Tiger Woods, the golfer, was arrested in Florida by police who found him ‘asleep at the wheel’ with the engine running; he was charged with Driving Under the Influence.

North Korea launched a ballistic missile that fell into the sea 200 miles off Japan. Scores drowned in the worst Sri Lankan floods for more than a decade. General Manuel Noriega, the former military dictator of Panama overthrown by a US invasion in 1989, died aged 83. French tennis player Maxime Hamou was banned from the French Open after repeatedly trying to kiss a woman reporter during a television interview.                   CSH