The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 23 May 2019

Portrait of the week | 23 May 2019
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The country went to the polls to elect Members of the European Parliament and express its loathing for the two main political parties. On the eve of polling, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, appealed for MPs’ support for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to be introduced shortly, saying that it would contain a provision for a vote on another referendum. In response, those she meant to woo reacted with hostility. The 1922 Committee had promised to have another little word with her about resigning after the bill’s fortunes became clear. Lord Heseltine had the Tory whip removed after saying he would vote for the Lib Dems in the EU elections. Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit party, had a Five Guys banana and salted caramel milkshake thrown over him in Newcastle; a man was charged with common assault and criminal damage.

Four boats carrying 52 migrants, including at least six children, were intercepted in the Channel, bringing the total since 3 November 2018 to 616, including more than 50 children. The Royal Navy relieved the captain of HMS Queen Elizabeth of his command after he was said to have misused an official car. Police arrested 500 men and 86 women, principally in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cheshire and Bedfordshire, in an operation aimed at so-called ‘county lines’ drug dealers. Oxford University is to offer places to applicants with lower A-level grades if they come from supposedly disadvantaged backgrounds. Dr Keith Wolverson, a GP who asked a Muslim woman if she would remove her face veil, was told by the General Medical Council that he is under investigation for alleged racism.

British Steel sought £75 million in government support to prevent its collapse, but was put into compulsory liquidation. Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group went into administration. Cadent, the gas suppliers, were fined £24 million by Ofgem. Geoffrey Robinson, the Labour MP, who is 81 today, dismissed as lies claims he passed government secrets to communist Czechoslovakia in the 1960s; according to the Mail on Sunday, the claims are contained in files compiled by the StB security agency, which gave his preferred drink as whisky and ginger beer.


President Donald Trump tweeted: ‘If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.’ It followed the firing of a rocket into the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, hitting a building a few hundred yards from America’s embassy. The US moved warships and jets to the Persian Gulf. Google barred Huawei smartphones from access to some Google apps, after the US administration prohibited American companies from trading with Huawei without a licence. Ford announced it would cut 7,000 jobs globally by the end of August. Alabama Public Television refused to air a cartoon showing male rats getting married.

Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, confounded predictions by winning a majority for his Liberal-National coalition and beating Labor in the general election. A man with a metal-detector found a 45 troy ounce gold nugget worth £54,000 near Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. All ministers belonging to the right-wing Freedom Party resigned from the Austrian coalition government after the party’s leader, Heinz-Christian Strache,  had to step down because a video seemed to show him discussing state favours in return for newspaper support. During his swearing-in as Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a television comedy actor, dissolved parliament and called a snap election. Five Catalan separatist politicians elected while in jail awaiting trial on charges of rebellion took their seats in the Spanish parliament before returning to prison. Swedish prosecutors issued a new request to detain Julian Assange (currently in prison in England for breaching bail conditions) on suspicion of rape.

In Switzerland, where 48 per cent of households own guns but gun crime is lower than in neighbouring countries, a referendum approved by 63 per cent stricter laws on automatic weapons, so that the country could stay in the Schengen free-travel area. The Bundesbank said that Germany’s economic growth in the first quarter of 2019 had slowed down in the second. Niki Lauda, the racing driver, died aged 70. The Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, died aged 98. I. M. Pei, the Chinese-American architect who designed the pyramid at the Louvre, died aged 102. Herman Wouk, the American novelist who wrote The Caine Mutiny, died aged 103. CH