The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 22 June 2017

Portrait of the week | 22 June 2017
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The burnt-out skeleton of Grenfell Tower, the 24-storey block of 127 flats at Latimer Road, west London, became a focus of recrimination. Initially, kind-hearted community action provided food and clothing for survivors, but organisation by the authorities was not apparent. After five days the police estimate for those dead or missing presumed dead was put at 79. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said that properties in Kensington should be ‘requisitioned if necessary’ to house the survivors. Supporters of Mr Corbyn denounced Theresa May, the Prime Minister, for talking only to emergency services when she visited the scene. Her advisers sent her back to a church, from which she was driven in a car with cries of ‘coward!’ from the crowd. The Queen visited the scene. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, called for a million protesters to take to the streets to oust Mrs May.

Negotiations on Brexit began with Britain accepting an EU timetable. The Queen’s Speech was delayed by two days until 21 June, meaning a quick getaway for the Queen to be in time for Royal Ascot. The Government had been negotiating with the Democratic Unionist Party to secure support from its 10 MPs. The parliamentary session was intended to last for two years, not one. Tim Farron resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats after being hounded to give details of his beliefs about the sinfulness of homosexual acts: ‘To be a leader, particularly of a progressive liberal party in 2017 and to live as a committed Christian and to hold faithful to the Bible’s teaching has felt impossible for me,’ he said. In a birthday honours list marked by an absence of political awards, J.K. Rowling, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Terence Conran and Delia Smith were among nine additions to the Companions of Honour.

A van injured ten people attending to a man who had collapsed in Seven Sisters Road near the Muslim Welfare House not far from Finsbury Park mosque. The man died. The driver was apprehended by the throng of Muslims, who were encouraged to do him no harm by an imam. Barclays and four former executives, including John Varley, were charged by the Serious Fraud Office with conspiracy to commit fraud and with provision of unlawful financial assistance relating to funds from Qatar for the bank during the crisis of 2008. Britain experienced a week of hot weather.


President Emmanuel Macron’s party La Republique en Marche won 350 of the 577 seats in the national assembly, securing, with its ally MoDem, 49.1 per cent of the vote; but the turnout, at 42 per cent, was a record low. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National, won one of the party’s eight seats. Spanish prosecutors accused the football manager José Mourinho, now at Manchester United, of defrauding Spain of 3.3 million euros during his time with Real Madrid. In Portugal, at least 64 died in a forest fire in the Pedrógão Grande region. On one stretch of road 47 bodies were found with vehicles trapped by the fire. Twelve people survived by spending six hours in a domestic water tank.

President Donald Trump of the United States said he was reimposing some travel and trade restrictions on Cuba that had been eased by the Obama administration. He also tweeted: ‘I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!’ American forces shot down a Syrian government fighter said to have been attacking Kurdish-led troops. An American, Otto Warmbier, aged 22, died a week after being released in a state of coma by North Korea where he had spent 15 months in jail after allegedly trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel. Fifteen Muslim Indians were charged with sedition for chanting anti-India slogans during the Champions Trophy cricket final between India and Pakistan.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia, aged 81, replaced his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef with his own son Mohammed, aged 31, as ​the ​ first in line to the throne. Belgian soldiers shot a man suspected of being a terrorist bomber at Brussels central station. Gunmen linked to al-Qaeda killed five people in an attack on a tourist resort in Mali. More than 3,300 people have been killed in clashes in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo since October, according to Catholic Church sources. Canada issued two-dollar coins that glowed in the dark. Dozens of New Zealand parents discovered too late that the Scooby Snacks treats they had given their children were intended for dogs.            CSH