The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 2 February 2017

Portrait of the week | 2 February 2017
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Theresa May, the Prime Minister, let it be known that she was ‘very happy’ about having extended an invitation from the Queen to Donald Trump to make a state visit to Britain. An online petition calling for its cancellation had attracted more than 1.7 million signatures and a rival petition supporting it also gained enough signatures to warrant a Commons debate, scheduled for 20 February. Mrs May had left Washington in a brief interlude of happy achievement after being the first head of government to meet President Trump formally at the White House. The day before, in Philadelphia, she made a well-regarded speech on foreign policy to Republican congressmen, in which she said: ‘The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.’ At a press conference with Mr Trump she announced that he was 100 per cent behind Nato and he said that, although he thought torture worked, he would defer to James Mattis, his defence secretary, who opposed it. Mrs May and Mr Trump were photographed hand in hand as he negotiated a declivity in the West Wing colonnade; the press suggested that he suffers from bathmophobia, a fear of steps.

But while Mrs May was in the air speeding towards Turkey it became known that Mr Trump had signed an executive order under the heading ‘Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals’ that suspended for 90 days the entry of citizens of seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also blocked admittance for refugees from Syria indefinitely and the entry of all refugees for 120 days. On the first day 109 people in transit were denied entry and 173 were stopped by airlines from boarding an aircraft to the United States. When, at a joint press conference with Binali Yildirim, the prime minister of Turkey, Mrs May was asked thrice about Mr Trump’s move, she replied: ‘The United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees.’ Her announcement of a £100 million contract to sell fighters to Turkey was rather overshadowed by the controversy.

As Mrs May returned to Britain, No. 10 said of Mr Trump’s actions: ‘We do not agree with this kind of approach.’ Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, ascertained that British people with dual nationality did not fall under the ban. Mr Trump sacked Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, appointed by Barack Obama, after she ordered justice department lawyers not to enforce the executive order. Mr Trump nominated the conservative-minded Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.

President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico cancelled his meeting with Mr Trump after suggestions from the US President of ways in which Mexico could be made to pay for a wall between the two countries.

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MPs debated the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. Tesco agreed to buy Booker, Britain’s biggest food wholesaler. The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry are to commission a statue of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, who died 20 years ago. Sir John Hurt, remembered for playing the Elephant Man, Quentin Crisp and a spaceman through whose chest an alien bursts, died aged 77. Alexander Chancellor, who transformed The Spectator as its editor from 1975 to 1984, died aged 77. Unusual numbers of migrants, such as waxwings, appeared in eastern counties during a cold spell on the Continent.

Six Muslim worshippers at a mosque in Quebec were shot dead, and a French-Canadian student, Alexandre Bissonnette, aged 27, was charged with murder. US commandos attacked an al-Qaeda stronghold in Yemen, killing 14. Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi frigate off Yemen, killing two. Members of al-Shabab, the Islamist terrorists, attacked a Kenyan military base in southern Somalia and said they had killed more than 50 soldiers. Austria decided to ban full-face veils in public places, such as courts and schools, to placate the right-wing opposition.

Wildfires destroyed the 1,000 houses making up the town of Santa Olga, Chile; 5,000 people fled. Ukraine prepared to evacuate 8,000 from the eastern town of Avdiivka amid renewed fighting with pro-Russian rebels. The Boy Scouts of America welcomed transgender children who think they are boys. To lessen smog in Beijing, the Chinese government appealed for restraint in celebrating the Year of the Cock: ‘Let us enthusiastically take action by not setting off, or setting off fewer, fireworks.’             CSH