The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 12 April 2018

Portrait of the week | 12 April 2018
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Parliament was in recess when Theresa May, the Prime Minister, agreed with America and France that the international community should respond to the chemical attack reported from Syria. It was not certain in any case that Parliament would back direct action by Britain. Yulia Skripal, who with her father Sergei was poisoned in Salisbury on 4 March, was discharged from hospital and taken to a safe place. Richard Osborn-Brooks, 78, who killed a burglar with a screwdriver with which he had been threatened, learnt that he would not be charged. He and his disabled wife had to leave their house for fear of revenge by associates of Henry Vincent, the dead man. People removed from a fence bouquets of flowers commemorating the burglar. Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, deployed 300 extra officers a day at the weekend to counter knife crime as the number of fatal stabbings in London this year rose to at least 35.

Israel’s Labor Party announced a ‘temporary suspension of all formal relations’ with the British Labour Party, while its leader Jeremy Corbyn failed adequately to ‘address the anti-Semitism in the Labour Party’; Mr Corbyn responded: ‘I wish they would read Shami Chakrabarti’s report.’ A recording emerged of Barry Gardiner, a Labour front-bench spokesman, commenting on the party’s six tests to be applied to the final Brexit deal in a Commons vote: ‘Well let’s just take one test — ‘the exact same benefits’ [as we now have in the single market and customs union]. Bollocks. Always has been bollocks and it remains it.’ At the same event, Mr Gardiner had referred to ‘the shibboleth of the Good Friday Agreement’.

Labour and Conservative councillors in Telford agreed to hold an immediate inquiry into current and historical child sexual abuse there. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have not invited Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn to their wedding in May, nor indeed President Donald Trump of America or his predecessor Barack Obama. Those who have been asked include Reuben Litherland, 14, who campaigns on behalf of deaf people and Pamela Anomneze, 52, from Haringey in north London, who works to help people with mental illness through art and crafts. Tesco reported annual profits of £1.3 billion. Eric Bristow the darts champion died of a heart attack aged 60.


President Donald Trump of the United States cancelled an official visit to Latin America to respond to the death of dozens of people in a chemical attack at Douma in the Eastern Ghouta region, near Damascus. Medical sources reported the attack and distressing pictures of dead young children emerged. The Syrian government was blamed. Mr Trump telephoned President Emmanuel Macron of France.Theresa May later spoke to them both, separately, on the telephone. Mr Trump and Mrs May ‘agreed not to allow the use of chemical weapons to continue’, Washington said. Russia made threatening noises. Vice-President Mike Pence flew to Peru in Mr Trump’s stead. In an air attack on the Syrian government’s Tiyas airbase, known as T4, near Homs, 14 people were reported killed; Syria said Israel was responsible for the attack, with missiles fired from F15 jets in Lebanese airspace. At least six Palestinians were killed by Israeli snipers on the Gaza border in one day, bringing the total killed to at least 28 in the two weeks since the beginning of a Palestinian protest.

The government of Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, was returned to office with the third landslide in a row, winning more than two thirds of the seats; the right-wing Jobbick party came second with 20 per cent of the vote. Carles Puigdemont, the former president of the Catalan parliament, was released on bail in Schleswig-Holstein after being arrested on a European Arrest Warrant issued by Spain. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former President of Brazil, handed himself in to begin a 12-year sentence for corruption.

Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, wearing a tie, testified before the US Senate commerce and judiciary committees. He was questioned on the use of private data. Strikes in Germany and France meant that Lufthansa had to cancel half its flights on one day and Air France a quarter. An aide to the President of Nigeria warned Nigerians to be careful in London since, she said, nine Nigerian youths had been killed in Britain this year. The Prince of Wales visited the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, where he said: ‘Vanuatu: you are number one.’ CSH