The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 16 July 2015

Portrait of the week | 16 July 2015
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The government postponed a Commons vote on relaxing the Hunting Act in England and Wales after the Scottish National Party said it would oppose the changes. Scottish police admitted that a crashed car off the M9, reported to them on a Sunday, was not examined until the Wednesday, when one of the two passengers inside it was still alive. She died three days later. A case of H7N7 bird flu was found at a poultry farm near Preston, Lancashire, where 170,000 chickens were slaughtered. British people were being urged by the Foreign Office to leave Tunisia because ‘a further terrorist attack is highly likely’. Up to 5,000 were flown home.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, rejected a bill from the European Union for a billion pounds as Britain’s contribution to a bridging loan to Greece under the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism, about which David Cameron, the Prime Minister, thought he had secured an undertaking in 2010 against its being used for further eurozone bailouts. The annual rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, fell to zero in June, from 0.1 per cent in May and, as measured by the Retail Prices Index, remained unchanged at 1 per cent. Unemployment rose, for the first time in two years, by 15,000. The government announced legislation to make it harder for unions to call strikes. Gillian Clarke, the wife of Kenneth Clarke, the Conservative MP, died aged 74.

Harriet Harman, the acting leader of the Labour party, met opposition from Labour MPs when she urged the party to abstain on the Welfare Reform Bill. Three of the four contenders for the Labour leadership, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn, disagreed with the policy she floated, leaving only Liz Kendall to say that she was ‘absolutely right’. Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, restored the ability of family and friends to send parcels of books directly to prisoners. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools, suggested that some of the pupils disappearing from school registers in Birmingham and in Tower Hamlets, east London, were being sent to unregistered Islamic schools.


Leaders of eurozone countries agreed, after a lengthy meeting in Brussels, to offer Greece a third bailout on much harsher terms than those rejected by Greek voters in a referendum last week. Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister of Greece, was sent home to secure agreement from his parliament. The eurozone agreed to start negotiations on a loan package of about €85 billion in return for changes in pensions, the collection of more VAT, liberalisation of the labour market, privatisation of the electricity network and the opening of shops on Sundays. A trust fund would sequestrate €50 billion of Greek assets. Debt repayment might be delayed but none would be written off. Germany and Finland had to seek agreement from their parliaments. Then the International Monetary Fund mildly pointed out that Greece could not pay its debts under the conditions proposed. The Large Hadron Collider discovered a new particle called the pentaquark, a clump of littler quarks.

Iran agreed to regulate its nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions, in an agreement with six world powers: the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany. Israel called the agreement an ‘historic mistake’. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria sacked the heads of the army, navy and air force after an outbreak of attacks by Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorists. Islamic State described a night of bombings in Baghdad that killed 28 as ‘the pounce of the monotheists on the chests of the apostates’. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a prominent Tibetan monk, died aged 65 after 13 years in a Chinese jail. Google Maps restored the name of Scarborough Shoal, north of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, after having shown it as part of the Zhongsha Islands, claimed by China.

President Barack Obama of the United States commuted the sentences of 46 drug offenders, 14 of whom were serving life terms. Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, a drug baron, escaped from jail in Mexico through a tunnel a mile long. Pope Francis denied drinking tea made from coca leaves during his visit to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. The collapse of a barracks near Omsk killed 23 Russian soldiers. A spacecraft called New Horizons reached the environs of Pluto after a voyage of more than nine years and sent back photographs of the dwarf planet. CSH