The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 18 February 2016

Portrait of the week | 18 February 2016
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David Cameron, the Prime Minister, spent time in Brussels before a meeting of the European Council to see what it would allow him to bring home for voters in a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The board of HSBC voted to keep its headquarters in Britain. Sir John Vickers, who headed the Independent Commission on Banking, said that Bank of England proposals for bank capital reserves were ‘less strong than what the ICB recommended’. The annual rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, rose to 0.3 per cent in January, compared with 0.2 per cent in December. Unemployment fell by 60,000 to 1.69 million. A dental nurse from Bradford who gave her friend a facelift was struck off the dental register.

EDF, the French energy company, said it would extend the life of four of its eight nuclear power plants in Britain: at Hartlepool, Torness and two at Heysham. The widow of Lord Brittan accepted a ‘full apology’ from Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, over the manner in which he had been investigated. The National Police Chiefs Council said that it was producing new guidelines for teachers designed to avoid ‘criminalising’ children caught sending indecent images to each other. After the Cabinet Office agreed to meet the £80,000 a year bill, vellum was reprieved as the material on which Acts of Parliament are printed. Lord Avebury, who as Eric Lubbock won the sensational Orpington by-election in 1962 for the Liberals, died, aged 87. The four members of the British indie band Viola Beach and their manager died when their car plunged 80 feet into a canal in Sweden.

AVirgin flight bound for America turned back to Heathrow after a pilot had his vision damaged by a laser that had been shone on the plane, it was assumed by a plane spotter intending to ‘tag’ the aircraft. BBC Three stopped broadcasting on television and limited itself to online diffusion. The Independent announced it would no longer be printed, but would limit itself to online diffusion. Stephen Fry discontinued his Twitter account, saying: ‘Too many people have peed in the pool.’


Turkey shelled Kurdish positions near Azaz in Syria, on the supply corridor for anti-government forces in Aleppo. Four hospitals in northern Syria were bombarded, but Russia denied accusations that it was responsible. International talks in Munich had agreed on ‘a limited cessation of hostilities’ in Syria (excluding action against the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front) to come into effect after a week. Philip Hammond, the British Foreign Secretary, said the cessation would only work if Russia halted its raids, but Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said they would continue. In Munich, the American senator John McCain said that President Vladimir Putin of Russia ‘wants to exacerbate the refugee crisis and use it as a weapon to divide the transatlantic alliance and undermine the European project’. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister, said that a ‘new Cold War’ had begun. En route for a visit to Mexico, the Pope held a historic meeting, in Havana, with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and in a joint statement they asked Christians to pray to God ‘to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war’.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Venezuela and Russia agreed to freeze oil output at January levels. Russia stopped Ukrainian goods lorries bound for Kazakhstan, and Ukraine retaliated by preventing Russian lorries driving through its own territory. Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, attempted to steady European bank shares, which have lost nearly a quarter of their value this year, by saying: ‘We will not hesitate to act.’ Japan’s economy contracted by 0.4 per cent in the last quarter of 2015. In China, users of Weibo, the microblogging site, expressed fears that people might leave excrement or knives in a new five-storey slide at a Shanghai shopping centre.

Antonin Scalia, who had been a US Supreme Court justice since 1986, died, aged 79. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN secretary general at the time of the Falklands war, died, aged 93. The European Space Agency reconciled itself to the fact that the lander Philae had died on comet 67P, from which it last transmitted in July 2015. In Cadiz it was suddenly noticed that Joaquin Garcia, an official employed by a municipal water authority, had not turned up to work for at least six years. CSH