The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 25 May 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: Donald Trump’s Middle East tour; Theresa May’s social care U-turn

Portrait of the week | 25 May 2017
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Twenty-two people were killed and 59 wounded by a man who blew himself up, with a bomb containing metal fragments, in the foyer of Manchester Arena as crowds were leaving a concert by the American singer Ariana Grande, aged 23, who has a strong following among young girls. Of the wounded, 12 were children. Police named the suspected murderer as Salman Ramadan Abedi, aged 22, a Mancunian whose family come from Libya, which he had recently visited. Isis said it was behind the attack. A 23-year-old man was arrested the next day. The official threat level was raised to ‘critical’, meaning that an attack was expected imminently. Soldiers were deployed in the streets to support armed police. The Queen said: ‘I would like to express my admiration for the way the people of Manchester have responded, with humanity and compassion, to this act of barbarity.’ Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said: ‘This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenceless children and young people.’ Parties suspended election campaigning after the attack.

Mrs May performed a spectacular U-turn over a manifesto policy on payment for social care, even though she exclaimed at a press conference: ‘Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed.’ The Conservative manifesto had said that anyone needing residential care or care at home would have to pay for it until their assets — including the value of their home — were reduced to £100,000. It was promised that a house need not be sold until after the death of its owner and surviving spouse. After a weekend of weakening opinion polls and embarrassing interviews by ministers, a proposal to cap the total anyone need pay was added, though no sum was given. In the five weeks after the election was called 2,938,000 people applied for a vote, 1,051,000 of them under 25, of whom 246,487 left their application till the last day allowed.

After Sweden decided to drop an investigation into allegations of rape against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks made a little speech from a balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been living since 2012. Sir Roger Moore, who played James Bond in seven films, died aged 89. A drone missed by about 30 yards an aeroplane from Shetland making a descent into Edinburgh Airport. Four people were reported to have pushed three trolleys containing more than £1,350 worth of Lego out of a Toys R Us shop in Poole, Dorset.


President Donald Trump of the United States made a speech to 55 leaders of Muslim countries at a summit in Riyadh, saying that ‘all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran’. ‘If you choose the path of terror,’ he said, ‘your soul will be condemned.’ In Israel he said he had come to ‘reaffirm the unbreakable bond’ America had with the country. In Bethlehem he met Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and said: ‘I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.’ He then flew off to Rome and met the Pope. Back at home, the Department of Justice appointed Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI, as a special counsel to investigate alleged ties between Russia and Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The relics of St Nicholas were flown from Bari to Moscow and will go on tour until July.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey resumed leadership of the ruling AK party, following a referendum that allowed changes in rules limiting presidential powers. Turkey vetoed Nato co-operation with Austria, which has 400 men serving in Kosovo. Hungary refused to back down over three laws which had provoked EU officials to question its future membership. Two men were caned on a public stage 83 times each in the Indonesian province of Aceh after being caught in bed together.

The Indian army said it had bombed Pakistani army posts along a line of control in Kashmir. The New York Times said that more than 12 CIA informants were killed or imprisoned by the Chinese government between 2010 and 2012. The Western Cape province of South Africa declared a drought disaster amid the worst water shortage for 113 years. A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88) was bought at auction in New York for $110.5 million by Yusaku Maezawa, 41, a Japanese fashion entrepreneur who plans to set up a museum in his home town of Chiba.     CSH