The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 20 April 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: Prince Harry talks about his near-breakdown; President Erdogan of Turkey seizes more power

Portrait of the week | 20 April 2017
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Theresa May, the Prime Minister, having repeatedly said that there would be no election until 2020, surprised the nation by suddenly standing at a lectern in Downing Street, while the wind ruffled her hair, and saying that she sought a general election on 8 June. ‘Britain is leaving the EU and there can be no turning back,’ she said. ‘The country is coming together but Westminster is not.’ She said later that she had taken the decision after a walking holiday in Wales, and had spoken to the Queen on Easter Monday. The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, passed in 2011, required a two-thirds majority of all MPs (or a motion of no confidence) to allow an election to be called, but Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, welcomed an election, saying it was a ‘chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first’. Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that the election would be a ‘chance to change the direction of our country’. The election would be decided in the 650 existing constituencies, as the Boundary Commission’s report on reducing the number to 600 is not due until 2018. The UK Independence Party said it would field a candidate in every constituency in England and Wales. Parliament would be dissolved after 2 May. The by-election at Manchester Gorton, due on 4 May, would not take place. George Osborne announced he would stand down as MP for Tatton – ‘for now’. No.10 said Mrs May would not take part in televised debates. Sir Lynton Crosby was appointed to play a leading role in the Conservatives’ campaign. Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, tweeted: ‘It was Hitchcock who directed Brexit: first an earthquake and the tension rises.’

Prince Harry, as part of the Heads Together mental health campaign, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions.’ Brighton and Hove Albion won promotion to the Premier League, 34 years after reaching the FA Cup final but being relegated. BT reprieved a red telephone kiosk at an altitude of 2,000ft in the Cairngorm mountains, the highest in the United Kingdom, but 947 others in Scotland will be scrapped.

Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, conceded that the government might sell at a loss the stake in Royal Bank of Scotland it bought in 2008. Britain’s high-cost credit market needed examination, according to Andrew Bailey, the head of the Financial Conduct Authority. Weetabix, made in Britain since 1932, was sold on the decision of its Chinese majority shareholder, Bright Food, to a US company, Post Holdings, for £1.4 billion. Tesco apologised for an advertisement before Easter that said: ‘Great offers on beer and cider. Good Friday just got better.’


North Korea fired a test missile on the birthday of its deceased ruler, Kim Il-sung, but the device blew up almost immediately. Mike Pence, the US Vice-President, visited South Korea, while an American naval strike force was expected off the Korean peninsula, but headed off to the Indian Ocean. In Cleveland, Ohio, a man shot himself as police pursued him after he killed a 74-year-old man at random and then posted a video on Facebook.

At least 90 soldiers belonging to the Islamic State were reported killed by an American Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, containing 18,700 lbs of explosives, dropped on a network of tunnels and caves in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. In Syria 126 people, 68 of them children, were killed when a vehicle filled with explosives hit a convoy of buses near Aleppo carrying evacuees from besieged Syrian towns. Emma Morano, the last person known to have been born before 1900, died in Verbania, Piedmont, aged 117.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey won a constitutional referendum that abolished the post of Prime Minister and extended the powers of the president. With a turnout of 85 per cent, the result was supported by 51.4 per cent of those who voted, with a majority in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir voting against. More than 8,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to Italy in three days over Easter, bringing the number rescued in the central Mediterranean this year to over 36,000. In Marseilles, French police arrested two known Islamist radicals on suspicion of planning an attack five days before the first round of the presidential elections. Saturn’s ice-encrusted moon Enceladus was found to have hot fluid vents in its subterranean ocean, thought capable of supporting life.    CSH