The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 24 November 2016

Portrait of the week | 24 November 2016
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In his Autumn Statement, Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, against an expectation of increased borrowing and slower growth, found an extra £1.3 billion to improve roads, which is 0.2 per cent of planned public spending next year, and £1.4 billion to promote the building of 40,000 houses. He improved the lot of some people on universal benefits and put £400 million towards provision of full-fibre broadband. The national minimum wage would rise from £7.20 to £7.50. The government would increase investment in research and development by £2 billion by the end of this parliament. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, had earlier pledged that the government would make Britain’s corporate tax rate the lowest in the G20. Government borrowing in October fell to £4.8 billion from £6.4 billion a year earlier. Lord Carlile of Berriew, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, is to review the case of Bishop George Bell, who died in 1958 and has been accused of having abused a little girl on the basis of a complaint made decades later.

Donald Trump, the president-elect of the United States, tweeted: ‘Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States.’ Downing Street responded sniffily: ‘We have chosen our ambassador and there is no vacancy.’ ‘Trump is a very loyal man and supports those that stand by him,’ Mr Farage said. ‘Sadly, the cesspit that is career politics understands nothing of this.’ The law on invoking Article 50, in order to leave the European Union, might go to the European Court of Justice to rule upon, according to Koen Lenaerts, Europe’s most senior judge. The government dropped plans to remove the power of the House of Lords to vote against statutory instruments. During storm Angus, the first of the season, a fish and chip shop in Bognor Regis burnt down.

The number of migrants born in eastern Europe and employed in Britain rose by 49,000 between July and September to 1,077,000, according to the Office for National Statistics. The Premier League sold three years’ rights to the Chinese digital broadcaster PPTV for £564 million. Thomas Mair, an unemployed gardener with a collection of neo-Nazi literature, was found guilty of having murdered the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, in the week before the EU referendum. A High Court judge ruled that the mother of a girl of 14 who died in October should be allowed to decide what happened to her body after her father opposed the girl’s request to be cryogenically preserved. The journalist A.A. Gill announced: ‘I’ve got an embarrassment of cancer, the full English.’ William Trevor, admired for his short stories, died aged 88. Giles Waterfield, formerly the director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, died aged 67.


François Fillon (prime minister of France 2007–12) knocked out Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of voting to be the candidate of the conservative party Les Républicains for the presidency. He thus became favourite to come up against Marine Le Pen, the Front National candidate. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said she would stand again for office next year. A Frenchman who inherited a house in Evreux, Normandy, found 220lb of gold, worth £3 million, hidden in the furniture.

Mr Trump said that the United States would withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which has yet to be ratified. Commenting on alt-right supporters filmed last week in Washington DC making Nazi salutes to the cry of ‘Hail, Trump’, he said: ‘I condemn them. I disavow and I condemn.’ Mr Trump named General Michael Flynn as his national security adviser. Mr Trump said that his wife, Melania, and their son Barron, ten, would not move into the White House in January. A 2,625ft bamboo ladder down a cliff by which children reached school from the plateau village of Atuler in Sichuan, China, was replaced with a sturdier steel ladder.

Fighting continued in Aleppo, Syria, with eight children in a school in the government-held western part being killed by rebel shelling; in the rebel sector no hospitals with operating facilities remained. In Mosul, Iraq, street-to-street fighting marked the attempt to take the city back from the control of the Islamic State. At least 140 people were killed when the Indore-Patna Express was derailed at 3 a.m. near the northern Indian city of Kanpur. Mexican officials ordered Dell Computers to honour an advertisement mistakenly offering laptops for sale at 679 pesos (£27), which was meant to be the delivery costs. CSH