The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 24 August 2017

Portrait of the week | 24 August 2017
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Big Ben ceased sounding for a planned period of four years, thanks to a decision by the Speaker and two Commons committees. The silence was attributed to the need to protect the hearing of workmen restoring the Elizabeth Tower, though experts on the bell and on previous restorations saw no reason for it. A game of hunt-the-issue was begun when Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, was obliged to resign as shadow minister for women and equalities after writing a piece for the Sun that began: ‘Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.’ The Pensions Regulator charged Dominic Chappell with failing to provide information it asked for in its investigation into the sale of BHS, the retail chain that he bought from Sir Philip Green for £1 in 2015. A Wiltshire farmer thanked firemen who saved 18 piglets from fire six months ago by delivering sausages made from them for a fire-station barbecue.

The government recorded a budget surplus in July for the first time since 2002, thanks to tax receipts from the self-employed. The United Kingdom would no longer be under the ‘direct jurisdiction’ of the European Court of Justice after Brexit, according to a government paper. Lidl pipped Waitrose to the position of seventh biggest supermarket chain, after Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Co-op. Upon opening its first store on the Isle of Wight, Asda put on sale 10,000 commemorative shopping bags bearing the legend ‘Isle of White’.

The National Grid pointed out that, as domestic circuitry is currently arranged, putting the kettle on while charging an electric car would cause a fuse to blow. Bruce Forsyth, the television game-show presenter, died aged 89. The Duke of Beaufort died aged 89. Brian Aldiss, the science-fiction writer, died aged 92. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said that the seven seconds allowed by the little green man for pedestrians to cross was not long enough for old people.


A van was driven into the crowd walking in the Ramblas in Barcelona on a weekday afternoon, killing 13 people and wounding more than 100. Eight hours later a car ploughed into pedestrians at Cambrils, 70 miles away, killing a woman. The car overturned and police shot dead the five men who got out. One of the men shot was Moussa Oukabir, 17, the brother of a man whose passport was found at the scene in Barcelona. Police linked the atrocities to an explosion a day earlier that destroyed a house at Alcanar, 130 miles from Barcelona, south of the Ebro delta, where a gang with Moroccan roots had been preparing gas-canister bombs. Four days after the atrocity, in a vineyard 25 miles west of Barcelona, police shot dead Younes Abouyaaqoub, aged 22, said to have been the driver of the van. He had escaped from Barcelona by hijacking a car whose driver was found stabbed to death. Abdelbaki Es Satty, the imam at Ripoll, in the province of Girona, was blamed for radicalising the suspects who lived there. He died in the explosion at Alcanar. Finnish police shot an 18-year-old Moroccan asylum-seeker in the leg after he had stabbed to death two women and wounded six others, as well as two men, in the city of Turku.

President Donald Trump committed the United States to sending more troops to Afghanistan, lest a withdrawal encourage terrorists. The new policy contradicted a promise of his election campaign to withdraw. Steve Bannon resigned as chief strategist of the White House in Mr Trump’s administration. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria addressed the nation on television on his return from three months of medical treatment in Britain in addition to previous spells of sick leave in the UK last year and this.

The United States was much taken by a total eclipse of the sun. Ten sailors were missing after the US destroyer John S McCain collided with a Liberian-registered tanker near Singapore. In Bangladesh, Nepal and India, more than 800 people were killed and 24 million affected by floods. An earthquake hit the Italian island of Ischia, killing two and making 2,600 temporarily homeless. Jerry Lewis, the comedian whom some found funnier than others, known for his performances in The Nutty Professor (1963) and Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982), died, aged 91. Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark was refused entry to a bar in Brisbane because he didn’t have his driving licence with him.   CSH