The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 25 January 2018

Also in Portrait of the Week: Henry Bolton defies Ukip no-confidence vote and the Chinese economy grows by 6.9 per cent

Portrait of the week | 25 January 2018
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Boris Johnson went on manoeuvres again. The media were briefed that, in a meeting of the cabinet, he would call for the National Health Service to be given another £100 million a week. ‘Mr Johnson is the Foreign Secretary,’ Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said. ‘I gave the Health Secretary an extra £6 billion at the recent Budget and we’ll look at departmental allocations again at the spending review when that takes place.’ No. 10 also slapped him down. ‘The Prime Minister and a large number of ministers made the point that cabinet discussions should remain private,’ said the official spokesman for Theresa May, the Prime Minister. The BBC turned over most of one day’s 10 o’clock bulletin to a documentary on NHS difficulties. Simon Shelton, best known for his role as the purple Teletubby, Tinky Winky, died aged 52.

Henry Bolton refused to resign as leader of the UK Independence Party after its national executive committee passed a vote of no confidence in him. Public-sector borrowing in December fell more than expected to £2.6 billion, which was £2.5 billion less than in December 2016. The Competition and Markets Authority said that the bid by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox to take control of Sky was not in the public interest because it would give ‘too much influence over public opinion’. Tesco said it was cutting 1,700 shop-floor management jobs and Sainsbury’s said that its own management changes would affect thousands. Police gave a fixed penalty to a man stopped in Newton Abbot with a shed fastened to the top of his car by a single rope. Demolition of a multi-storey car park in Edinburgh, opened in 2001 and closed in 2003 and designed to put cars into spaces robotically, revealed eight cars still in situ.

Princess Eugenie of York is to marry Jack Brooksbank, a wine merchant, at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in the autumn. Third cousins twice removed, they are descended from the 2nd Earl of Leicester (the son of Coke of Norfolk), who had 15 children. Eugenie’s mother, the Duchess of York — known as Fergie — added her congratulations on Twitter with the strange apothegm: ‘I always say that the river flows well to its destiny because of the guidance of a solid rock.’ A gas main broke near Charing Cross station, which closed for the morning rush hour.


The United States government had a little shutdown, from Friday to Monday, when Congress passed a funding bill to tide it over until 8 February. The US imposed new tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels, affecting South Korea and China the most. The supreme court of Iceland upheld a government import tariff on potato chips of 76 per cent. Amazon opened a supermarket in Seattle with no tills, relying on sensors to debit customers’ purchases from their accounts.

China’s economy grew by 6.9 per cent last year, according to official data, which some think unreliable. In Davos, speaking at the World Economic Forum, Fang Xinghai, the deputy chief of the China Regulatory Securities Commission, said that ‘if something bad happens’ because of ‘too much debt in our system’, China would move swiftly and ‘those who are “shorting” China and betting on a financial collapse, thinking they can make money, will be wrong again’. Villagers at Fazilpur Badli in the Indian state of Haryana were disturbed one morning by a loud thud which turned out to have been made by a 26lb lump of ice falling from the sky, suspected of being faecal waste from an aeroplane.

Civilians fled Turkish armed forces attacks on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria, directed against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey says is affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Nine civilians in Bab Touma, a predominantly Christian district of the Old City of Damascus were killed by rebel mortar fire from the besieged suburb of eastern Ghouta; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts at 60 the deaths in Damascus from rebel bombardment since mid November and at 350 the deaths in eastern Ghouta from government strikes. President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia warned of a welfare crisis for the 470,000 who have sought refuge in his country from Venezuela. President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador said that the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, was an ‘inherited problem’ that was ‘more than a nuisance’. Hugh Masekela, the South African jazz trumpeter, died aged 78.           CSH