The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 27 April 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: Macron is France’s president-in-waiting; US warships head for North Korea

Portrait of the week | 27 April 2017
Text settings


Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, cheered the United Kingdom by promising four new bank holidays for the whole country when he becomes prime minister, for the patronal days of St David, St Patrick, St George and St Andrew. Asked about the replacement for the Trident nuclear deterrent, he said: ‘I’ve made clear any use of nuclear weapons would be a disaster for the whole world.’ Three hours later, the Labour party put out a statement saying: ‘The decision to renew Trident has been taken and Labour supports that.’ The Communist Party decided not to field candidates against Labour.

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, visited South Wales, following a YouGov poll (for what it was worth) suggesting the Conservatives would gain 40 per cent of the vote in the principality with Labour at 30 per cent. She said that voters could choose between ‘lower taxes under the Conservatives or higher taxes under Labour’ but refused to say if her party would repeat its current manifesto undertaking not to raise income tax, National Insurance and VAT, nor would she guarantee the triple-lock on state pensions. Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister, appealed for voters ‘to return as many Members of Parliament as possible to Parliament that are going to keep an open mind on this Brexit negotiation’, which, he said could mean voting Labour, Lib Dem or even Tory, though he added: ‘I will vote Labour; I would always vote Labour.’ Asked on Newsnight what Labour’s position was on Europe, Peter Mandelson, the former cabinet minister, said: ‘Search me.’ Sir Keir Starmer said that Labour wanted to keep the EU single market ‘on the table’ for negotiations but opposed free movement of people, though not of labour. Labour promised to pay NHS staff more. Sir Elton John spent two days in intensive care after contracting a ‘rare and potentially deadly’ bacterial disease in South America.

MPs not standing at the election included Gisela Stuart, Andy Burnham and Michael Dugher for Labour and Sir Eric Pickles and Simon Burns for the Conservatives. After an acid attack at an east London nightclub left two people blind in one eye, police said that there had been 1,800 attacks with corrosive liquids in London since 2010. A man was charged after 90 vehicles were vandalised during the night in one part of Inverness.


Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche! movement, a former economy minister in a Socialist government, won 24 per cent of the vote in the first round of the French presidential elections, going through to the deciding vote on 7 May with Marine Le Pen of the National Front, who gained 21.3 per cent. She relinquished leadership of her party to concentrate on her candidacy. The two presidential candidates attended a ceremony conferring the Legion of Honour on a policeman, Xavier Jugelé, shot dead five days earlier by a man who Islamic State said was acting on its behalf. The co-leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD), Frauke Petry, failed to persuade the party to move closer to the mainstream. At least 16 people drowned trying to reach Greece across the strait separating Turkey from Lesbos.

The entire US Senate was asked to attend a briefing on North Korea at the White House as an American submarine arrived in South Korea, to be joined by a naval force led by an aircraft carrier, which North Korea was ready to sink ‘with a single strike’. America installed Thaad anti-missile systems in South Korea. Xi Jinping, the ruler of China, rang President Donald Trump of America, and urged restraint on all parties. A man in Thailand killed his baby daughter, recording the act on Facebook before killing himself.

The UN said that more than 18 million of Yemen’s 25 million people need urgent assistance. In Saudi Arabia, King Salman reversed pay cuts for civil servants and the military. The sister of the fattest woman in the world, Eman Abd El Aty, an Egyptian, challenged doctors’ claims that she had lost more than 39 stone following surgery in Bombay. Ecuador’s state media watchdog, Supercom, fined four newspapers and three television stations for not reporting accusations against an opposition politician. At least seven people died when an electric cable fell on fans watching a Manchester United match on television in Calabar, Nigeria. A 12-year-old boy attempting to drive 2,500 miles from Kendall in New South Wales to Perth in Western Australia was stopped after 800 miles by police at Broken Hill, when the bumper of his car fell off.       CSH