The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 22 October 2015

Portrait of the week | 22 October 2015
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Xi Jinping, the ruler of China, came, with his wife Peng Liyuan, a folk singer, for a state visit to Britain, to address both Houses of Parliament and to stay at Buckingham Palace. Tata Steel announced the loss of 900 jobs in Scunthorpe and 270 in Lanarkshire. This followed the liquidation of SSI, Britain’s second-largest steel-maker, and the appointment of administrators for parts of Caparo Industries steel operations. The fall of global steel prices and the dumping of steel by China were blamed; David Cameron, the Prime Minister, promised in the Commons to raise that with Mr Xi. Craig Joubert, the South African referee, sprinted from the field without shaking the captains’ hands at the end of the game that saw Australia go through by one point after a penalty was awarded against Scotland. The World Rugby body ruled that the referee had made the wrong decision and there ‘should have been a scrum to Australia’.

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, made a speech reflecting the Bank’s study of how Britain’s membership of the European Union affects its ability to manage the economy. The government put forward a ‘counter-extremism strategy’, a bran-tub of measures to include an investigation into how Sharia is applied in Britain; it also proposed ‘empowering the UK’s Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish communities, so they can have platforms from which to speak out against the carnage Isis is conducting in their countries’. Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said that an official assessment had found that the IRA army council still existed, but had a ‘wholly political focus’.

The government defended cuts to tax credits. Boris Johnson, a rival to George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said he wanted ‘to make sure that hard-working people on low incomes are protected, and I’m sure the Chancellor can do that’. Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary, had been confronted on the BBC’s Question Time by Michelle Dorrell, 35, a single mother of four children who runs a nail bar that makes no profit and receives £400 a week in benefits and said that from being a Tory voter she now leant to Jeremy Corbyn. Lord Warner, a health minister from 2003 to 2007, resigned the Labour whip, saying that if the party stays as it is, it ‘hasn’t a hope in hell of winning an election in 2020 or indeed in 2025’. Junior doctors marched in London, Belfast and Nottingham in protest at government attempts to change their contracts.


President Bashar al-Assad of Syria left the country for the first time since 2011 for talks with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Tens of thousands of Syrians were reported to have fled a government offensive against Aleppo. The Slovenian parliament voted to deploy troops to help with the 5,000 migrants a day seeking to cross its territory bound for Germany. Hungary had earlier closed its border from Croatia after 32,000 had entered the country in five days. In Greece, 8,000 people a day were landing in small vessels from Turkey, bringing the total this year to more than 500,000 out of 650,000 such migrants arriving in Europe. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, visited President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, bringing with her offers of money, entry for Turks to the EU without visas, and a recommendation that the process for Turkey’s accession to the EU be ‘re-energised’.

The Liberals, led by Justin Trudeau, ousted the Conservatives in the Canadian general election, jumping from third position to a commanding majority with promises to take in more Syrian refugees and legalise cannabis. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National, went on trial in Lyon for remarks made in 2010 likening Muslims praying in the street to the wartime occupation of France; such street prayers were banned in Paris in 2011. The crush at Mecca last month during the hajj killed at least 2,110 people, not the 769 Saudi Arabia claimed, according to the Associated Press. Rioters set fire to Joseph’s tomb near Nablus in the West Bank.

Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic athlete, was released from prison into house arrest, a year after being jailed for killing his girlfriend. Joaquin Guzman, known as El Chapo (‘Shorty’), the Mexican drug baron who escaped from prison in July, was wounded in the face and leg in an attempt to arrest him, police said. An Australian law student who visited a Bangalore restaurant with a tattoo of the goddess Yellamma on his leg said that local people had threatened to remove it by force. CSH