The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 10 March 2016

Portrait of the week | 10 March 2016
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The Bank of England arranged for banks to be able to borrow as much money as they needed around the date of the EU referendum, lest there should be a bank run. After saying in a speech that Britain’s long-term prospects could be ‘brighter’ outside the EU, John Longworth was suspended as director-general of the British Chamber of Commerce, from which he then resigned so that he could speak freely. Four arrests followed the explosion of a bomb in Belfast, which wounded a prison officer working at Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn in Co. Antrim. The law against smoking in public buildings does not apply to prisons in England and Wales, the Appeal Court ruled. The Liberal Democrats called for the legal sale of marijuana through ‘cannabis social clubs’.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, let it be known that he had dropped from his budget a scheme that would have scrapped or set a flat rate for tax relief on money paid into pensions, but removed tax from the eventual withdrawal of funds from a pension pot. Thomas Piquemal, the chief financial officer of EDF, the French energy company, resigned over its plans to build an £18 billion nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, Somerset. Npower, the energy company, said it would cut 2,400 jobs in Britain following the loss of 351,000 customers last year. In London, Rupert Murdoch, 84, married Jerry Hall, the mother of four of Sir Mick Jagger’s children. Sir George Martin, the producer of the Beatles, died aged 90. Nikolaus Harnon--court, the conductor, died aged 86. A Warwickshire man with a £50 bet at 5,000- 1 on Leicester City winning the Premier League cashed in his bet for £72,000.

Junior doctors went on strike again. Tory rebels were supported by Scottish Nationalists in blocking the extension of Sunday trading in England. The chief inspector of prisons found that last summer 3,500 people were detained in Britain after arriving by train, and that immigration officials and Tascor, a company acting for them, resorted to holding some of them, including children, at Longport Freight Shed in Folkestone. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, stuck by his statement made a week earlier: ‘I am in favour of decriminalising the sex industry.’ Mark Serwotka, the head of the Public and Commercial Services union, who was barred from the Labour party in 1992 for his membership of the Trotskyist group Socialist Organiser, rejoined Labour.


The European Union said it had agreed the ‘broad principles’ of a deal by which Turkey would accept the forcible return from Greece of migrants, including Syrians, in return for the EU accepting the same number of refugees who had been living in Turkey. Turkey also wanted an extra €3 billion and entry to the Schengen zone for its 79 million citizens without a visa. The UN refugee agency said that the plan was ‘not consistent with European law’. With the closing of the Macedonian border, 13,000 migrants were trapped on the Greek side, with 2,000 a day still arriving in Greece from Turkey. The Turkish government had earlier taken over Zaman, the country’s biggest newspaper. Despite a ‘cessation of hostilities’, at least 12 people were killed in an airstrike on the opposition-held town of Abu Dhuhour in northern Syria. Robert Fico, the prime minister of Slovakia, who promised not to accept ‘one single Muslim’ migrant, lost his overall majority in a general election but sought to form a coalition. The body of a woman was found in a lift in a block of flats in the Chinese city of Xi’an a month after it was turned off by maintenance workers.

Babak Zanjani, a billionaire Iranian businessman, was sentenced to death on charges of economic corruption. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the former president of Brazil, was questioned by police about corruption at the state oil company, Petrobras. The United States said it had killed 150 al-Shabab jihadis in Somalia with an attack by manned aircraft and drones.

Ray Tomlinson, who invented emails and commandeered the symbol @ for their addresses, died aged 74. Nancy Reagan, the film actress and wife of the president of the United States from 1981 to 1989, died aged 94. Maria Sharapova, the tennis player, failed a drug test when she was found to be taking meldonium, a drug banned on 1 January; she said she had been taking it under the name of mildronate since 2006. The rock band AC/DC suspended its US tour after its singer Brian Johnson was warned he risked losing his hearing completely.