The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 23 October 2014

Portrait of the week | 23 October 2014
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A hundred firemen could not prevent wooden cooling towers at Didcot B gas-fuelled power station in Oxfordshire from burning down. A consortium said it could power 2.5 million houses in Britain by 2018 with solar energy generated in southern Tunisia. The Bank of England indicated that interest rates would stay low for longer because of a poor outlook for the global economy. Government borrowing rose to £11.8 billion in September: £1.6 billion more than a year earlier. HSBC offered a mortgage at 0.99 per cent interest. The government is to pay a bounty of £55 to GPs for every patient they diagnose with dementia. English hospitals near the Welsh border are under ‘absolutely intolerable pressure’ from patients crossing over to get treatment, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said. The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting her second child next April.

David Cameron said that before Christmas he would set out further plans to curb the rights of EU migrants to work in Britain. Not enough of the 10,650 foreign prisoners in Britain are being deported, according to the National Audit Office. Among those to be created peers were Sir Andrew Green, head of Migration Watch, and Sir Robert Rogers, the former Clerk of the House of Commons. A flock of sheep at Merstham, Surrey, devoured £4,000-worth of cannabis that had been dumped in their field.

Britain will fly unmanned drones over Syria. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Argus continued its passage to Sierra Leone to support action against Ebola; the hospital on board will not be used for Ebola patients. A man from Turvey, Bedfordshire, withdrew his daughter from school because it would not let her wear a face mask against Ebola. Tens of thousands of people in London, Glasgow and Belfast demonstrated in favour of higher pay, adopting the TUC slogan: ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise’. A.H. Halsey, Britain’s first professor of sociology and the scourge of grammar schools, died, aged 91. The 11th Duke of Marlborough died, aged 88. Raphael Ravenscroft, who played the saxophone solo on Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’, died, aged 60.


Senegal and Nigeria were declared free of Ebola, which has killed more than 4,500, mostly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. The United States limited ingress to five airports for people from the worst affected countries. The Pentagon set up a 30-man rapid reaction medical support team to help with any cases of Ebola in the United States. The American government was found to have paid dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals millions of dollars in social security after they renounced their citizenship and agreed to leave the country. America’s secret unmanned orbital test vehicle landed in California after 674 days in orbit.

Turkey decided to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the Syrian border to fight Islamic State troops in Kobane, where their assault had been driven back. American military aircraft dropped weapons and medical supplies to Kurdish forces there. An Islamic State video showed that what it said were American arms dropped in Syria had come into its hands.An Australian teenager appeared in an Islamic State video defying the prime minister of Australia. Gough Whitlam, prime minister of Australia from 1972 to 1975, when he was removed from office by the governor general, died, aged 98. Boko Haram killed people in three villages in north-east Nigeria, despite the government announcing a truce intended to secure the freedom of 200 abducted schoolgirls.

A synod of bishops in Rome declared that ‘homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community’ but said ‘unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same level as marriage between man and woman’. Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete, was sentenced to five years in jail for the culpable homicide of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. President Vladimir Putin of Russia paid a visit to Silvio Berlusconi, the disgraced Italian former prime minister, in the small hours during the Asia-Europe summit in Milan. Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of Total, and three crew died when his plane collided at Vnukovo airport with a snow plough. At least 41 trekkers were killed by snow storms in the Nepalese Himalayas.   CSH