The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 20 August 2015

Portrait of the week | 20 August 2015
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Andrew Burnham described calls from Yvette Cooper, a rival candidate for the Labour leadership, for him to withdraw from the contest as ‘quite strange’. The problem was how to prevent Jeremy Corbyn, a left-winger, from being elected by the alternative vote system by 610,000 party members and registered supporters. Gordon Brown, the former disastrous Labour prime minister, contributed by making a 50-minute speech in a small room at the Royal Festival Hall, during which he paced up and down continuously for an estimated 1 mile 1 furlong 5 chains and did not mention Mr Corbyn’s name. Kezia Dugdale, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, was elected leader of the Scottish Labour party; the party has only one seat in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway announced it would host the World Gold Panning Championships in 2017.

The annual rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index rose to 0.1 per cent, from nothing in June, but the rate measured by the Retail Prices Index remained at 1 per cent. This determined the 1 per cent by which regulated rail fares will rise in January. HM Revenue and Customs earmarked £43 billion in provisions and contingent liabilities in case a series of law suits it is fighting go against it. The busy Mancunian Way, south of Manchester city centre, was closed after a sink hole opened up and continued to grow. A survey of babies’ names in the past year by the Office for National Statistics showed that 53 girls had been called by the fictional title Khaleesi from Game of Thrones and four boys Messi.

The Queen was not blown up by the Islamic State, as Sky News had predicted she might be, but, with the Duke of Edinburgh, attended a service at St Martin-in-the-Fields to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ Day. E-cigarettes could be prescribed on the NHS to help people give up smoking, a report for Public Health England said. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said that doctors who prescribed antibiotics unnecessarily could be referred to the General Medical Council. ​Lord Coe became president of the International Association of Athletics Federations. More than 300,000 households in Lancashire continued to boil water as United Utilities checked 2,500 miles of pipes for cryptosporidium, a parasitic protozoan.


In the Libyan city of Sirte, mostly controlled by Islamic State forces, armed civilians loyal to a rival Salafist movement died in fighting. When 320 migrants were rescued by the Italian navy from a fishing boat off Libya, another 40 were found dead in the hold. A Syrian government air raid on a market in Douma, a rebel-held area of Damascus, killed at least 96 people. The Eleftherios Venizelos car ferry was sent by the Greek government to Kos to act as a registration centre and perhaps a detention centre for hundreds of Syrian refugees. In the first seven months of the year about 124,000 migrants had reached Greece by sea. The number of migrants trying to get into the Eurotunnel terminal near Calais was reported to have fallen to about 150 a night. In Ottawa a drone playing recorded wolf howls frightened away geese that had been plaguing the city with their droppings.

A bomb at the Erawan Hindu shrine in Bangkok, much visited by tourists, killed at least 20. Three men, including a British citizen, were arrested by police in Bangladesh investigating the murders of two secularist bloggers, Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das. President Salva Kiir of South Sudan continued to delay signing a peace agreement intended to end the civil war in his country. At least nine people died in artillery fire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine near Mariupol. Ahmet Davutoglu, the prime minister of Turkey, said that he had exhausted all possibilities of forming a coalition government. An Indian spacecraft, Mangalyaan, sent back photographs of a chasm on Mars.

Huge explosions at warehouses storing dangerous chemicals, including hundreds of tons of sodium cyanide, killed more than 100 people in Tianjin, the Chinese port. About 70 firemen were missing; more than 6,000 people were made homeless and 17,000 homes damaged. From Washington state to California, wild fires raged after a four-year drought. Shell was granted a permit to drill for oil below the ocean floor in the Arctic, where it has begun work in Alaska. In Ecuador, Cotopaxi erupted, threatening 325,000 people living south of Quito.        CSH