The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 11 May 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: Emmanuel Macron elected French president; Donald Trump sacks head of the FBI

Portrait of the week | 11 May 2017
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After spectacular local election results, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said: ‘I’m taking nothing for granted over the next five weeks. I need support from across the United Kingdom to strengthen my hand, and only a vote for me and my team will ensure that Britain has the strong and stable leadership we need.’ The Conservatives increased their number of council seats by 563. Labour lost 382 and Ukip lost all 145 it held, but gained a single one, Padiham and Burnley West, Lancashire, from Labour. In Scotland, the Conservatives became the second party to the Scottish National Party and gained seven seats in Glasgow (where Labour lost control of the city) and Paisley’s Ferguslie Park, Scotland’s poorest community. The national percentage share of the vote was: Conservatives 38; Labour 27; Lib Dem 17. Of six mayors elected, Andy Street won West Midlands and Ben Houchen won Tees Valley for the Conservatives, while the former Labour MP Andy Burnham won Manchester but refused to attend a rally held there by Jeremy Corbyn. The Conservatives failed to gain Northumberland after their candidate lost Blyth South Beach to the Lib Dem when straws were drawn to break a dead heat.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, launched his general election campaign, saying: ‘We have four weeks to take our wealth back.’ He declined to say whether Britain would definitely leave the European Union when he became prime minister. The Conservatives stuck by their aim of reducing net migration to ‘the tens of thousands’ and adopted a policy espoused by Ed Miliband, when he was Labour leader, of capping energy bills. Mrs May promised a free vote on hunting. At stage-managed rallies, posters did not mention the Conservative party but ‘Theresa May’s Team’. Mrs May and her husband Philip sat on an uncomfortable sofa for an interview on The One Show, wearing pearls and no tie respectively. He said that he did ‘the traditional boy jobs’ such as putting out the dustbins. She said her childhood in a vicarage had been ‘very stable’. Lord Thomas of Swynnerton (Hugh Thomas), the Hispanicist, died aged 85.

Buckingham Palace announced that the Duke of Edinburgh would stand down from royal duties from August, when he will be 96. A girl of 11 died on a school trip in a fall from a water ride at Drayton Manor theme park, Staffordshire. A leaf from a Sarum ordinal printed by Caxton in the 1470s and unknown in any other copy was identified at Reading University library.


Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! won 66.1 per cent of the vote to be elected President of France, beating Marine Le Pen of the National Front (who won a majority only in the departments of Aisne and Pas-de-Calais). The owners of Dulux paint, the Dutch company Akzo Nobel, rejected a £22.8 billion takeover bid from PPG Industries of the USA. A South African man was arrested at 24,000ft for attempting to climb Everest without a £8,500 permit.

President Donald Trump of the United States sacked James Comey as director of the FBI, to general astonishment. Mr Trump approved the supplying of weapons to Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria. The US state department recommended sending 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, outgoing governor of Jakarta, a Christian, was jailed for two years for blasphemy for referring to a Koran verse in an election speech. In Nigeria, 82 of the 276 girls abducted three years ago were released in return for an undisclosed number of Boko Haram prisoners. Aine Davis, 33, from west London, was found guilty in Turkey of being a senior member of a terrorist organisation and jailed for seven-and-a-half years. In Yemen, afflicted by civil war and famine, a resurgence of cholera affected hundreds. About 245 people were feared drowned when two separate boats full of migrants sank off Libya; about 43,000 are thought to have reached Italy this year.

Moon Jae-in, a Liberal who favours greater dialogue with North Korea, was elected President of South Korea. At least 42 people were killed in an explosion at the Zemestan-Yurt coal mine in the Iranian province of Golestan near the Caspian sea. In the village of San Isidro Huilotepec, in Puebla state, Mexico, 14 died in an explosion of fireworks being kept for the patronal feast on 15 May.    CSH