The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 27 August 2015

Portrait of the week | 27 August 2015
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Harriet Harman, the acting leader of the Labour party, said that 3,000 people had had any votes they cast in the Labour leadership contest set aside. Voters for the contest had been reduced from 610,000 to 553,954, mostly because people could not be found on the electoral register, but 1,900 alleged sympathisers with the Greens and 400 Conservatives had been debarred, not to mention Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union. It was admitted that in mid-August the chimes of Big Ben were up to six seconds out.

A 1950s Hawker Hunter jet in an air display at Shoreham in West Sussex crashed in a ball of fire on a main road, killing 11 people; the pilot was critically injured. The Civil Aviation Authority said that such vintage jets would no longer be allowed to perform ‘high-energy aerobatics’ over land at air shows. Britain ordered £47 million of mobile air defence radars to protect the Falkland Islands. The Met Office lost its weather forecasting contract with the BBC. British brassica growers are suffering the worst aphid attacks in a decade.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, signed an agreement with Bernard Cazeneuve, her French counterpart, to set up a ‘control and command centre’ run by British and French police to pursue people-smuggling gangs. The number of people in Britain who were born abroad rose above eight million. Harvey Proctor, the former MP, accused police of a ‘homosexual witch hunt’ after being interviewed for the second time as part of Operation Midland, an inquiry into claims that powerful men abused children in the 1970s and 1980s. He said he was asked about the former prime minister Sir Edward Heath and the former chief of the defence staff Lord Bramall, who has previously categorically denied any involvement with child sexual abuse. London overtook Brussels to become the European city with the most congested roads.


The Shanghai Composite share index fell by 7.6 per cent in one day, which the Xinhua press agency called Black Monday. This startled stock markets elsewhere, sending the FTSE down 4.7 per cent and the Dow Jones down 3.6 per cent. The next day, western stock markets rallied a little and China cut its interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point. Stolen information appeared on the internet from the 33 million accounts on the website of Ashley Madison, a Canadian company that promoted adulterous affairs. Canadian police said that two suicides had been linked to the theft.

Germany said it was suspending the Dublin agreement that requires refugees to make application for asylum at the first country they came to. Germany said it expected up to 800,000 people to seek asylum by the end of the year. The Italian coastguard rescued about 3,000 migrants from the Mediterranean in one day. In Greece, more than 33,000 migrants were recorded to have landed on Lesbos in August. Macedonia declared a state of emergency in the face of 44,000 migrants in two months making their way north. In one day 2,093 migrants crossed the border from Serbia into Hungary near the town of Roszke, police said.

President François Hollande of France bestowed the Legion d’honneur on three Americans and a British man who overpowered an Islamist gunman on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. French prosecutors said that the suspect, Ayoub El-Khazzani, a Moroccan aged 25, emerged from a train lavatory carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, 270 rounds of ammunition, a pistol, a box-cutter knife, a hammer and a bottle of petrol. A Frenchman was shot and wounded in the neck, but two off-duty American servicemen, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, with another American, Anthony Sadler, tackled the gunman, although Mr Stone was slashed in the neck and had a thumb almost sliced off. A British man, Chris Norman, helped tie the man up with a tie and give him up to police at Arras. Mr Khazzani was said to have lived in Madrid, where he had been charged with drug-trafficking, but he denied having visited Turkey and Syria. A deputy leader of the Islamic State, Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, was killed in an American air strike in northern Iraq. The Islamic State blew up the ancient temple of Baalshamin at Palmyra. Spain and Morocco arrested 14 people in a joint operation against recruitment for the Islamic State. Israel ruled that Heinz tomato ketchup must be sold as ‘tomato seasoning’ because it contained too little tomato concentrate to qualify. CSH