The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 26 February 2015

Portrait of the week | 26 February 2015
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Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Conservative foreign secretary, resigned as chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee and promised not to stand for Parliament in May after he and Jack Straw, the former Labour foreign secretary, were suspended from their parties. This followed their being separately secretly filmed apparently offering their services for payment to reporters from the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches programme pretending to be acting for a Chinese company. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, declared that Labour candidates would in future not to be allowed to have second jobs. Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green party, apologised for an ‘excruciating’ interview on LBC with Nick Ferrari, who called it ‘one of the worst interviews ever by a political leader’. Only 21 per cent of women have a shower or bath every day, according to a survey of 2,021 women aged 18 to 50.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister said that British troops (thought to number 75) were being sent to Ukraine to train soldiers fighting Russian separatists. The Defence Secretary had earlier drawn attention to Russian bombers flying close to Cornwall. Scotland Yard said three girls, two aged 15 and one 16, from the same school in London, who had flown to Istanbul, were thought to have crossed into Syria, intent upon joining the Islamic State. Al-Shabab, the Somali-based terrorists, urged followers in a video to carry out attacks on shopping centres in Britain, the United States and Canada. Manchester is to take control of its health budget in addition to its budget for social care. Scientists said that babies fed with peanut butter were much less likely to develop an allergy later.

The government named 70 companies that it said had failed to pay workers the minimum wage, including a care provider in the East Midlands. The FTSE beat its previous closing high of 6,930.2, which was reached on 30 December 1999. HSBC reported a 17 per cent drop in profit to £12.2 billion. Its chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, said the practices at the company’s Swiss private bank, ‘in the past, are a source of shame’. The British offshore oil and gas industry reported its worst annual performance for four decades, spending £5.3 billion more than it earned from sales during 2014. Sun rays shining through an empty Nutella jar were blamed by firemen for a first-floor fire in Twickenham that killed a Jack Russell called Chilli.


Hundreds of Turkish troops disinterred the remains of Suleyman Shah, who died in 1236, from his tomb in Syria, which the Islamic State had threatened to attack, and moved it to a safer place of burial in Syria. Isis was also reported to have abducted dozens of Assyrian Christians from villages in north-east Syria. United Nations-sponsored talks between rival factions in Libya were suspended after suicide bombings by Isis at al-Qubbah killed at least 40 people. A young girl with explosives strapped to her killed five people outside a market in Potiskum, in north-east Nigeria, and two days later a suicide bomb attack killed at least 13 people at a bus station in the same town. Five drones were spotted flying by night near the Eiffel Tower and other locations in Paris.

The Euro Group of eurozone finance ministers headed by Jeroen Dijsselbloem approved a list of economic reform proposals by Greece intended to further its bailout. Rajendra Pachauri, aged 74, resigned as head of the UN climate change panel after allegations from a 29-year-old woman of sexual harassment, which he denied. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar should take place in November and December, since it was so hot in summer, a Fifa committee decided. In the Oscars, Birdman was chosen as best film, and Eddie Redmayne won best actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking. Scientists in Norway blamed gerbils, not black rats, for spreading bubonic plague to medieval Europe.

In Ukraine, a ceasefire did not prevent fighting as Russian-backed rebels took control of the strategic railway junction at Debaltseve. A bomb killed two people at a rally in Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, held to mark the first anniversary of the uprising in Kiev that led to the fall of pro-Russia leader Viktor Yanukovych. A dozen students were taken to hospital after taking accidental overdoses of MDMA, nicknamed Molly, on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. The height of the sea at New York was said by American scientists to have risen by five inches between 2008 and 2010. CSH