The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 21 September 2017

Also: the Parsons Green bomb, Ryanair, RMT strike, North Korea, Burma, J.P. Donleavy and the Catalan referendum

Portrait of the week | 21 September 2017
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Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, issued a manifesto for a ‘glorious future’ for Britain outside the European Union as ‘the greatest country on Earth’. This was seen as a challenge to Theresa May, the Prime Minister. People like Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, and Kenneth Clarke, the Tory arch-Remainer, said he should have been sacked. Mr Johnson’s lengthy piece in the Daily Telegraph came six days before a big speech on the subject promised by Mrs May, in Florence, before the next round of Brexit negotiations. He declared that Britain should pay nothing for access to the EU single market. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, went on television and accused him of ‘back-seat driving’. Others got up a row over his claim that ‘once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350 million per week. It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS’. Sir David Norgrove, the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, said this was ‘a clear misuse of official statistics’. Oliver Robbins, the government’s top Brexit official, was transferred from the Department for Exiting the European Union to the Cabinet Office in order to work more directly for the Prime Minister.

Ahome-made bomb ignited in a wall of flame in a morning rush-hour Underground train at Parsons Green station, injuring 30 people but failing to explode. Police arrested an 18-year-old Iraqi orphan (who had been in foster care in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey) at Dover, a 21-year-old man in Hounslow, Middlesex. and and 25-year-old man in Newport, Monmouthshire. It was found that people who shopped on Amazon for an ingredient of a popular bomb-making compound would receive the information that it was ‘frequently bought together’ with the other ingredients. Britain is the fifth-biggest audience in the world for extremist internet content after Turkey, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, according to a study by Policy Exchange.

The number of people who died in the Grenfell Tower fire may be fewer than the estimate of 80, according to police, who have so far seized 31 million documents in their investigations. Ryanair began cancelling 40-50 flights a day for six weeks without much notice. In response to loud complaints, it published the details of which flights would be cancelled up to the end of October. A ship detained and held at Aberdeen for more than a year was ordered to be auctioned to pay the crew’s wages. Acidic vapour wafted over part of Hull when a dockside tank containing 580 tons of hydrochloric acid leaked overnight.


President Donald Trump of the United States said at the UN that if America is ‘forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea’. Of Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, he said: ‘Rocket man is on a suicide mission.’ His words followed the firing of a missile by North Korea over Japan and 2,300 miles into the Pacific, which happens to be the distance to the American territory of Guam. Within minutes, South Korea fired a missile into the sea, which happened to travel the same distance that could have taken it to Pyongyang. The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva demanded to be allowed into Rakhine state in Burma to assess the reason for 400,000 Muslim Rohingyas having fled to Bangladesh. Bangladesh attempted to stop the refugees from dispersing in the country.

Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica; ‘We have lost all that money can buy,’ said the Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, who lost the roof of his own house. It then moved west across the Caribbean. Many were killed when a strong earthquake struck Mexico City. Toys ‘R’ Us filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States and Canada. J. P. Donleavy, author of The Ginger Man (1955), died at 91. Equifax, the American credit reporting company, said it might have had data stolen relating to 143 million Americans and 400,000 Britons.

In Egypt, a mass trial concerning the violence that followed the removal of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 sentenced 43 to prison for life and 300 to terms between five and 15 years. Haider al-Abadi, the Prime Minister of Iraq, demanded the suspension of a referendum on Kurdish independence. In Spain, the Civil Guard searched print works for the ballot papers to be used on 1 October in a Catalan referendum on independence, which has been declared illegal. Plumbers unblocking sewage pipes in Geneva found the problem was cut-up €500 notes.    CSH