The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 15 June 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: Jeremy Corbyn celebrates Labour revival; fire engulfs tower block in West London

Portrait of the week | 15 June 2017
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Theresa May, the Prime Minister, spent the week confronting the consequences of the general election that she had called to bring ‘stability and certainty for the future’. It had instead surprisingly left the Conservatives with no overall majority. They won 318 seats (a loss of 13) and Labour 262 (a gain of 30). The Scottish National Party won 35 (a loss of 21), with the Conservatives gaining 12 extra seats in Scotland, even capturing Stirling. Labour won an extra five seats in Scotland. Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, lost his seat, as did Alex Salmond. Nick Clegg, the former Lib-Dem leader, lost his seat, but Sir Vince Cable won back Twickenham. Paul Nuttall resigned as leader of Ukip, the collapse of whose vote left the Tories with a total of 13,667,213 votes (42.4 per cent) and Labour 12,874,985 (40 per cent). Labour’s organisation among students led to its winning seats such as Canterbury by 187 votes and Kensington, after three recounts, by 20. The annual rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, rose to 2.9 per cent in May from 2.7 in April; measured by the Retail Prices Index, the rise was to 3.7 per cent from 3.5. A huge fire engulfed a west London tower block, injuring dozens and trapping many inside.

Conservatives disagreed about whether Theresa May would have to resign. George Osborne, the former chancellor of the exchequer, now editor of the London Evening Standard, said: ‘Theresa May is dead woman walking.’ In order to secure a majority, Mrs May sought from the Democratic Unionists (with ten seats) a confidence and supply arrangement. This upset Ruth Davidson, the leader of the 13 Scottish Conservatives, who is keen on same-sex marriage, which is illegal in Northern Ireland. Delays meant that the Queen’s Speech was rescheduled. Mrs May’s weakened position led her to give immediate assurances that there would be no change in the cabinet positions of Boris Johnson, David Davis, Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond or Sir Michael Fallon. A small cabinet shuffle brought back from the wilderness Michael Gove as Environment Secretary, with Andrea Leadsom becoming Leader of the House. Damian Green, Mrs May’s friend, became First Secretary of State.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, spoke as if his party had won the election. He paused to smell a rose outside his house and said: ‘Aren’t they beautiful these roses? And such a glorious day.’ Lord Hague floated the notion of a cross-party commission to decide the hardness or softness of Brexit. Conservative backbenchers were so angry at the election result that they demanded that Mrs May arrange an extra television interview to apologise to candidates who had lost seats. She also complied with another demand: to dispense with her two bosom advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. Mrs May addressed a meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee, saying, ‘I got us into this mess — I’ll get us out of it,’ and was met with sounds of approval.


An American circuit court of appeals upheld the judgment of a lower court against the lawfulness of President Trump’s revised travel ban on people from six mainly Muslim countries. US special forces supported Philippine armed forces in efforts to retake the city of Marawi from supporters of Isis. In Syria, fighting continued to take the city of Raqqa from Isis. Saif Gaddafi, a son of the late Libyan ruler, was let out of jail after six years. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, the foreign minister of Qatar, flew to London for talks with Boris Johnson, who called for a resolution of the boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other neighbours.

Hundreds of people were arrested at anti-corruption demonstrations in Moscow and St Petersburg. Juha Sipilä, the Prime Minister of Finland, said he must withdraw from a coalition with the Finns party after it chose an opponent of immigration as its leader. Norway is to introduce a law against the Muslim full-face veil in schools and universities, on the grounds of its hampering communication. Travis Kalanick, the founder of the Uber minicab set-up, took a leave of absence.

In the first round of the French general election, Emmanuel Macron’s new party, La République en Marche, and its ally MoDem, won 32.3 per cent of the vote, with a turnout of 48.7 per cent. Mrs May came to visit Mr Macron to discuss security. McDonald’s began to supply cutlery at its outlets in France.      CSH