The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 15 September 2016

Portrait of the week | 15 September 2016
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Schools in England would have the right to select pupils by ability, under plans outlined by Theresa May, the Prime Minister. New grammar schools would take quotas of poor pupils or help run other schools, a Green Paper proposed. ‘We already have selection in our school system — and it’s selection by house price, selection by wealth. That is simply unfair,’ Mrs May said in a speech. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, said the idea that poor children would benefit from a return of grammar schools was ‘tosh’. Oversubscribed Catholic schools which wished to expand would be able to choose all their additional pupils on grounds of faith. Emma Nicholson, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, rejoined the Conservative party after 21 years as a Liberal Democrat, inspired by Mrs May’s education ideas. David Cameron, the former prime minister, ceased being an MP by accepting appointment as Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. The Commons foreign affairs committee blamed Mr Cameron for destabilising Libya.

Draft Boundary Commission proposals showed constituency changes by which the number of MPs would be cut from 533 to 501 in England and from 40 to 29 in Wales, with the total in the Commons coming down to 600. Labour would have won 27 fewer seats in the 2015 elections under the new boundaries. The Isle of Wight would become two constituencies and another constituency would straddle the border of Devon and Cornwall. Britain reached second place to China in the Paralympic medal table. Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, accused Dermot Murnaghan, the television interviewer, of ‘sexism’ when he asked her if she could name the French foreign minister; she replied: ‘No and I’m not going to start answering your questions on this.’ Simon Kirby, the head of the HS2 rail project, left to take up a job with Rolls-Royce. The rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index remained unchanged at 0.6 per cent; by the Retail Prices Index it fell from 1.9 to 1.8 per cent. Gravesend, Kent, celebrated its hottest September day since 1911, at 34.4˚C (93.9˚F).

Jonathan ‘Mad Pup’ Adair, aged 32, the son of Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair, the loyalist terrorist, was found dead in Troon, Ayshire, a few days after being released from prison where he had served a sentence for driving while banned. Police seized kirpans, Sikh ceremonial daggers, when they arrested 55 people after an eight-hour occupation of the Gurdwara Sahib in Leamington Spa by protestors against a mixed marriage there. Burkas could form part of police uniform, suggested David Thompson, the Chief Constable of the West Midlands: ‘We don’t have any barriers relating to the burka,’ he said. The BBC solemnly announced the sad news that it had lost The Great British Bake Off to Channel 4. Rona Fairhead resigned as chairman of the BBC Trust.


A cessation of hostilities in Syria was agreed in talks between the United States and Russia, which supports President Bashar al-Assad. Before the ceasefire was due to begin, the Syrian government carried out heavy air strikes, killing about 100 people, and Russian warplanes went into action in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo. America had planned joint operations with Russia against the Islamic State and Islamist forces such as those of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. The Saudi-led coalition was reported to have bombed men drilling a well in Yemen and killed 30 civilians. In five hours, an Irish naval vessel, James Joyce, rescued 423 migrants from 18 boats about 40 miles off Libya’s capital Tripoli.

German authorities arrested three Syrians who had arrived via Turkey and Greece, on suspicion of working for the Islamic State, and investigated any links with the attacks in Paris on 13 November. Three women were charged with terrorist offences after a car containing six gas cylinders was found near Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Thirty-three people were stuck overnight in a stranded cable-car at an altitude of 12,000ft, near Helbronner in the Alps on the French-Italian border.

Hillary Clinton, aged 68, the Democratic candidate for US president, left a ceremony marking the 11 September 2001 atrocities and collapsed on entering a car. It emerged that she had been suffering from pneumonia. Earlier she had apologised for calling half the supporters of Donald Trump, her Republican opponent, a ‘basket of deplorables’. Russian hackers leaked the medical files of US Olympic athletes. Scientists in Botswana deterred lions by painting eyes on cows’ bottoms.  CSH