The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 12 October 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: film producer Harvey Weinstein is fired as three women accuse him of rape

Portrait of the week | 12 October 2017
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Theresa May, the Prime Minister, when asked by Iain Dale in an interview on LBC: ‘If there was a Brexit vote now, would you vote Brexit?’ repeatedly refused to say. Earlier, briefing the House of Commons on Brexit, she said that the country must prepare for ‘every eventuality’. The government published two papers on trade and customs arrangements that envisaged ways by which Britain could thrive as an ‘independent trading nation’ even if no trade deal were reached with Brussels. Mrs May admitted that during a transitional period, the European Court of Justice would retain jurisdiction. Asked five times if the government had received legal advice on whether the process of departure under Article 50 could be revoked, Mrs May only repeated: ‘The government made clear that we have no intention of revoking that. We will be delivering on the vote of the British people.’ On progress in negotiations, Mrs May said: ‘The ball is in their court.’ The EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said: ‘The ball is entirely in the UK court.’ David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, had lunch with Michel Barnier, the chief EU negotiator, in Brussels. They had sea bass and roast beef, with English and French wine. No talks were scheduled for the following day.

BAE Systems said it was cutting 1,920 jobs in military, maritime and intelligence services, partly because of poor orders for the Typhoon/Eurofighter. The Scottish government is to set up a publicly owned company to sell energy to customers ‘as close to cost price as possible’, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, announced. Some parents said their children were unable to buy food for lunch because the website of the payment company ParentPay went down for several hours. A van stopped by police in Sawtry, Cambridgeshire, was found to be carrying 6,822lb of cheese — 2,822lb more than the vehicle’s weight limit.

A ‘race audit’ promised by Mrs May turned out to be a new website aggregating information already published. She said that institutions must ‘explain or change’ racial disparity. The website showed all sorts of anomalies, such as that white teenagers were four times more likely to be smokers than black teenagers and that white women were more at risk of domestic abuse than ethnic minority women. By the end of the year, Britain is expected to have attracted 39.7 million tourists, more than ever before.


Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Government of Catalonia, addressed the Catalan parliament and signed a declaration of independence, but put it in his pocket pending talks with Madrid. A huge rally to oppose independence had been held in Barcelona. The Catalan bank Sabadell decided to move its legal domicile to another part of Spain and CaixaBank said it was moving its headquarters from Barcelona to Valencia. Hungary protested at a law in Ukraine making Ukrainian the compulsory language for tuition in schools even in Transcarpathia, where 150,000 ethnic Hungarians live. Cuban exiles complained about an Irish postage stamp commemorating Che Guevara (whose father Ernesto Guevara Lynch traced his ancestry to Galway).

In California, wildfires destroyed 1,500 houses, killed at least 15 people, with another 150 unaccounted for, and drove 20,000 to evacuate parts of Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties. The Nobel prize for peace went to the Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The Nobel prize for economics went to Richard Thaler, author of the book Nudge, which prompted David Cameron to set up a Nudge behavioural insights unit in 2010. Harvey Weinstein, an Oscar-winning film producer accused of sexually harassing females, was sacked by his board but denied raping three women after allegations were made in the New Yorker. President Donald Trump of the United States, when asked about reports that his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, had called him a moron, said: ‘I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.’

Hackers from North Korea were said to have stolen a large cache of military documents from South Korea, including joint war plans by the USA and South Korea. The UN said it was worried about the wellbeing of more than five million Iraqis driven from their homes by Isis since 2014. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo of Nigeria said steps were under way to provide an electricity supply to the 50 million people (out of a population of 180 million) who did not have it.                                                                         CSH