The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 2 March 2017

Portrait of the week | 2 March 2017
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Sir John Major, the former prime minister, made a speech at Chatham House in which he called the referendum vote for Brexit ‘an historic mistake’. The Lords got its teeth into the European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill. A merger between the London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Börse foundered after the LSE refused a demand by the European Commission for it to sell its Italian bond-trading platform, MTS. Royal Bank of Scotland, in which taxpayers hold a 73 per cent stake, announced losses of £7 billion. Theresa May gave up crisps for Lent.

Asked if he would still be Labour leader in 2020, Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘I’ve given you a very, very clear answer — yes.’ He was speaking after a disastrous defeat for Labour in the Copeland by-election when the party, which had held the seat since 1935, lost it in a 6.7 per cent swing to the Conservatives, the first gain for a governing party in a by-election since 1982. ‘The loss in Copeland was really serious,’ said Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow secretary for exiting the European Union. ‘If things don’t improve there is no prospect of us winning a general election.’ Ukip came fourth behind the Liberal Democrats. On the same day, Labour held Stoke-on-Trent Central, beating Ukip, whose candidate was Paul Nuttall, the party leader. Ukip then fell to bitter recriminations, with Nigel Farage, its former leader, attacking its sole MP, Douglas Carswell. Arron Banks, a generous donor to the party, called Mr Carswell a ‘terrible individual’ and promised to stand in his constituency himself. In a leaked email, Mr Carswell had mocked Mr Farage’s failure to get a knighthood in the New Year honours. Leicester beat Liverpool 3-1 after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, the manager who last year took the team to victory in the Premier League.

The government set about introducing compulsory sex education for children from the age of four. Sir Philip Green, the former owner of BHS, agreed with the Pensions Regulator to make a voluntary contribution of up to £363 million to plug the gap in its pension scheme. Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith, the coroner examining the death of 30 British people in the Tunisian resort of Sousse in June 2015, found that they were ‘unlawfully killed’ by a gunman, to whose attack the Tunisian police response was ‘at best shambolic and at worst cowardly’. Sir James Dyson bought Hullavington airfield in Wiltshire to build a research centre. Police arrested six after discovering thousands of cannabis plants growing in 20 rooms in a disused nuclear bunker in Wiltshire. Guildford cathedral might have to close because a funding scheme fell through when the borough council refused permission for a housing development on church land.


President Donald Trump of the United States addressed both houses of Congress for the first time, calling for national unity and proposing infrastructure spending of $1,000 billion. Earlier he outlined a 10 per cent rise in defence spending of $54 billion. La La Land was announced at the Oscars as winner of the award for best film, thanks to a man from PriceWaterhouseCoopers handing the wrong envelope to the presenters, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, only for the acceptance speeches to be interrupted when the real winner, Moonlight, was established.

The UN said that seven million people in Yemen did not know where their next meal was coming from. Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Syria over the use of chemical weapons. Hibatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Taleban in Afghanistan, urged Afghans to plant more trees. Abu Sayyaf, a jihadist group in the Philippines, posted a video showing the beheading of a German hostage, Jürgen Kantner, who had been taken from his yacht off Sabah in Malaysia last November. Footage from Chengdu of a lively baby panda, Qi Yi, clinging to its keeper’s leg was viewed on Facebook 163 million times in four days.

Durban may be unable to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games because of financial constraints, South Africa’s sports minister said, but Liverpool showed interest. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria remained in London, where he is receiving medical treatment. Ukrainian ex-servicemen continued to blockade railway lines to prevent the movement of coal for sale from rebel-held territory in the Donetsk region. A French police sniper accidentally shot a waiter and a railwayman in the leg during a speech by President François Hollande.         CSH