The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 20 June 2013

Portrait of the week | 20 June 2013
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On the eve of the G8 summit, at a press conference with David Cameron, the Prime Minister, President Vladimir Putin of Russia bluntly opposed British proposals to aid the Syrian opposition: ‘People who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their entrails in public before the cameras. Are these the people you want to support?’ At the summit, in a golfing hotel protected by the waters of Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, none of the leaders wore a tie. A joint statement on Syria did not call for the removal of President Assad. Before the summit, Mr Cameron made British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies agree to inform on investors to the tax authorities. This initiative was adopted by the G8, together with an ambition that ‘companies should know who really owns them’. Mr Cameron announced that negotiations had begun for a trade agreement worth £100 billion to the European Union and £80 billion to United States. France insisted on its film industry being exempted. President Barack Obama of the United States, in a speech to schoolchildren, attacked religious schools, labelling them as ‘segregated’.

Among the 1,180 awards in the Queen’s birthday honours, Anish Kapoor, the sculptor, and Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP, were knighted and Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat politician, and Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, were appointed Companions of Honour. The Duke of Edinburgh left hospital 11 nights after being admitted for exploratory abdominal surgery. David Warner, the Australian cricketer, was fined £7,000 and barred from playing until the Ashes, after punching the England player Joe Root, who was wearing a green and gold wig as a beard in the early hours at the Walkabout pub in Birmingham. All 31 passengers were rescued when a commercial amphibious vehicle known as a Yellow Duckmarine sank in a dock in Liverpool.

The army declared 4,480 people redundant, 3,765 of them volunteering to go. Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, demanded that surgeons should release data detailing the outcome of their surgery. The Co-operative Bank proposed to fill the £1.5 billion hole in its finances by offering bond-holders shares and launching itself on the stock market. The rate of inflation measured by the consumer prices index inflation increased to 2.7 per cent in May, from 2.4 in April; by the Retail Prices Index the increase was to 3.1 per cent from 2.9. Stuart Hall, the BBC broadcaster, aged 83, was sentenced to 15 months in jail for 14 offences of sexually abusing girls between 1967 and 1985. A policeman and a woman were arrested by police investigating the incident last September in which Andrew Mitchell, the former government chief whip, was accused of calling police in Downing Street ‘plebs’. The number of explosions under the pavements of London rose from eight in 2011 to 29 last year.


Hassan Rouhani, aged 64, a cleric who regards himself as a moderate, was elected President of Iran by 18,613,329 votes out of 36,704,156 cast. There was some doubt over whether a thesis, The Flexibility of Sharia, had won him a doctorate from Glasgow Caledonian University. In Afghanistan, Nato handed over security for the whole country for the first time since 2001. In Quetta, Pakistan, a bomb on a women’s university bus killed 14 women, and gunmen then attacked the hospital treating survivors, killing 11.

In Istanbul, police kept control of Taksim Square and the neighbouring Gezi Park, having forced out anti-government protestors. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister, blamed ‘terrorists’. President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt told a rally that Cairo was breaking off diplomatic relations with Syria. At home, Mr Morsi brought the number of regional governorships controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies to 13 out of 27. In Iraq, bombs killed at least 30, mostly Shia, in one day; the next day, two suicide bombers killed at least 31 at a Shia mosque in Baghdad. In May, 1,045 civilians and security officials had been killed in Iraq, the worst month since June 2008.

A Greek court suspended the government order to close the state broadcaster. In New York, Rupert Murdoch, 82, filed for divorce from Wendi Deng, 44, on the grounds that their marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’. A British man attempting to climb down on to his own balcony survived falling from the 15th floor of a block of flats in Auckland, New Zealand; a neighbouring roof 13 floors down was said to have broken his fall.            CSH