The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 26 October 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: Theresa May, sleepless in Brussels; Xi Jinping, omnipotent in Beijing

Portrait of the week | 26 October 2017
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Of perhaps 400 Britons returned from the former territory of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, those who ‘do not justify prosecution’ should be reintegrated, Max Hill, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, told the BBC. Rory Stewart MP, asked about foreigners fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, said that ‘the only way of dealing with them will be, in almost every case, to kill them’. Jared O’Mara MP resigned from the Commons equalities committee after attention was directed to remarks he made online in 2004, such as that Michelle McManus had only won Pop Idol ‘because she was fat’.

Theresa May had been ‘anxious, despondent and disheartened’ at her dinner the week before with Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, according to a report in Frankfurter Allgemeine, which disclosed that ‘She looks like someone who doesn’t sleep at night.’ Once Mrs May had left the summit, the other 27 EU countries agreed to discuss among themselves future arrangements for trade with Britain. The EU would be ‘defeated’ in Brexit negotiations unless it maintained absolute unity, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, told the European Parliament. Bloomberg opened its new European headquarters, 1.1 million square feet in the City of London, incorporating a Roman temple of Mithras.

Britain’s GDP grew by 0.4 per cent in the third quarter of the year, compared with 0.3 per cent in each of the first two quarters. Average interest rates on credit cards reached 23 per cent, their highest for a decade, according to the website Moneyfacts. The Financial Conduct Authority ruled that BrightHouse, the rent-to-own retailer, had not acted as a ‘responsible lender’ and must pay £14.8 million to 249,000 customers.

Parliament, over which scaffolding continued to spread, would not vote on how to manage its repairs for another 18 months. Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House, announced. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, had to move out of Bute House in Edinburgh, her official residence, after urgent fears that a ceiling might fall down. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union announced strikes on 8 November on Southern, South Western, Greater Anglia, Merseyrail and Arriva Rail North. Storm Brian broke a two-mile pipe due to be installed to pump storm water away from sewers in order to leave Blackpool beach cleaner.


Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, said that under Article 155 of the constitution Carles Puigdemont would lose his powers as prime minister (president) of the Generalitat of Catalonia, along with others who had acted illegally in furthering Catalan independence. In Italy, consultative referendums in Lombardy and the Veneto supported greater autonomy there. In France, the court that in 2015 prevented a couple from naming their baby girl Nutella was asked to rule whether a baby born in Toulouse could be called Jihad.

At the end of the Communist Party Congress in Beijing, a unanimous vote was taken to incorporate Xi Jinping’s ‘Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era’ into its constitution. China lifted an import ban on gorgonzola and stilton. Shinzo Abe’s coalition won 313 of the 465 seats contested in the Japanese general election, which would enable him to amend article nine in the constitution, which renounces war. President Robert Mugabe was named as a World Health Organisation goodwill ambassador, an appointment revoked the next day in the face of worldwide condemnation. A new vaccine that could prevent 90 per cent of cases of typhoid, which kills 220,000 a year, was recommended by the WHO. A new strain of ransomware called Bad Rabbit was found to be spreading in Russia and Ukraine.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, announced an investment of $500 billion in a new city and 10,000 square mile business zone in the north-west, straddling the borders of Jordan and Egypt. At least 5,600 foreign supporters of the Islamic State have returned home, according to a report by the Soufan Center, an American thinktank: 400 of the 3,417 fighters from Russia; 271 of the 1,910 from France; and 760 of the 3,244 from Saudi Arabia. America withdrew military assistance from Burma because of its treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. Abraham Abiriga, a Ugandan MP, was fined 40,000 Ugandan shillings (£5) for ‘easing in the city’, after being photographed urinating outside the ministry of finance.            CSH