The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 23 November 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: Robert Mugabe quits and Angela Merkel fails to form a coalition government in Germany

Portrait of the week | 23 November 2017
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The cabinet, including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, agreed that the European Union would have to be offered something like £40 billion in the fond hope that at the summit on 14 December it would agree to start talking about a trade agreement. Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator, made a speech reminding the City that ‘The legal consequence of Brexit is that UK financial service providers lose their EU passport.’ He also stressed the unresolved Irish border question. Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, criticised the Prime Minister of Ireland: ‘You shouldn’t play about with Northern Ireland, particularly at a time when we’re trying to bring about devolved government again.’ European officials were busy totting up the Reste à Liquider (money committed to budgets), which would set Britain back £27 billion, plus £18 billion promised to future projects, £9 billion for pensions, and loan guarantees of £10 billion. Brandon Lewis, the Immigration Minister, said that the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice was ‘part of negotiations’. Eurotunnel changed its name to Getlink, under the apprehension that it sounded attractively Anglo-Saxon.

In the Budget, Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, reported that GDP was predicted to fall to 1.3 per cent by 2020. He foresaw reduced debt and deficit over five years. He put aside another £3 billion for Brexit preparations. The NHS would get an extra £2.8 billion. Stamp duty was abolished on properties up to £300,000 for first-time buyers. A 100 per cent council tax premium could be put on empty properties. Over five years, £44 billion would support the building of 300,000 new houses a year. Waiting time for Universal Credit would be reduced. Alcohol duty was frozen, except for some strong cider. Voters under 30 would get rail cards. Single-use plastic would be taxed. He made some jokes and Mrs May handed him a packet of cough-sweets. Camelot, the operator of the National Lottery, said it was planning a new prize of a monthly income of £10,000 for the rest of winners’ lives.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with a dinner at Windsor, for which the Duchess of Cambridge wore the Queen’s four-row Japanese pearl choker. In an official photograph, the Queen wore the ruby brooch made by Andrew Grima in 1966, a present from the Duke. Malcolm Young, the rhythm guitarist of AC/DC, died aged 64.


Robert Mugabe, aged 93, repeatedly dashed expectations of his resignation as President of Zimbabwe until at last he relinquished his post by letter when parliament had already begun his impeachment. Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, whom Mr Mugabe had dismissed as vice-president on 6 November, returned to the country. Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander, was found guilty of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and sentenced to life imprisonment. Charlie Rose, aged 75, the CBS presenter, was sacked after eight women alleged lewd telephone calls and unwanted advances. Charles Manson, the cult leader imprisoned since his followers murdered nine people in 1969, died aged 83.

Germany entered a political crisis when talks to form a coalition government failed. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, said she would prefer new elections to leading a minority government, but President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that parties should ‘reconsider their attitudes’. Saad Hariri ‘suspended’ his resignation as Prime Minister of Lebanon once he was back in the country from Saudi Arabia. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had talks in Sochi with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who said: ‘As far as our joint work in fighting terrorism on the territory of Syria is concerned, this military operation is indeed wrapping up.’ Both Russia and Kazakhstan denied an accident after a cloud of radioactive ruthenium-106 was detected over France. Six Czech tourists were fined 22,500 tenge (£51) each in the Kazakh capital, Astana, for wearing nothing but mankinis inspired by Borat; the comedian offered to pay their fines.

An Argentine submarine, the San Juan, with a crew of 44, went missing after reporting an electrical failure on its voyage back from the tip of South America. A car bomb killed 23 at a market in Tuz Khurmatu, a town of Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen, 100 miles north of Baghdad. A 12-year-old boy bought the registration plate 1111 in a charity auction in Abu Dhabi for £300,000, of which he had won £100,000 in a Quran-reciting competition.                CSH