The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 3 December 2015

Portrait of the week | 3 December 2015
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The House of Commons voted on air strikes in Syria. Labour MPs had been allowed a free vote by their party amid much ill-feeling. Members of the shadow cabinet shouted at Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, when he tried to insist that the formal Labour party policy should be to oppose air strikes. Mr Corbyn said: ‘We’re going to kill people in their homes by our bombs.’ Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, said: ‘Inaction has a cost in lives, too.’ Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, who murdered 13 women, was said to have been successfully treated for schizophrenia and was being considered for transfer from Broadmoor hospital to prison. Justice Lowell Goddard said her inquiry into child sexual abuse would entail 12 simultaneous investigations into a list of institutions and topics, taking at least five years. An album called 25 by the singer Adele broke sales records in Britain and America. A group claiming to hate people who are overweight handed out cards reading: ‘You’re fat’ to suitable victims on the London Underground.

A strike by junior doctors was called off at the last moment after the British Medical Association and the Department of Health agreed to discuss a settlement. Grant Shapps resigned as international development minister after allegations that he knew when he was co-chairman of the Conservative party about bullying in its youth wing, said to have contributed to the death of a 21-year-old activist called Elliott Johnson, who died in September, it is believed by suicide. Mark Clarke, who had been the director of a youth organisation, RoadTrip2015, was banned from party membership for life. Daventry District Council imposed £100 fines on people found with a dog but no bag to carry its excrement in, if the need arose.

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee said Heathrow airport should not expand until it banned night flights and met air pollution and noise requirements. A government decision was delayed. RBS and Standard Chartered took steps to raise capital after a Bank of England stress test found they lacked capital strength should oil fall to $38 a barrel and the global economy slump. The supermarket Morrison’s was poised to fall out of the FTSE 100. Ofcom warned that Christmas tree lights could slow down wi-fi speeds.


President Vladimir Putin of Russia said he believed a Russian warplane was shot down by Turkey near the Syrian border in order to protect Turkey’s oil trade with the Islamic State. Turkey denied buying oil from the Islamic State. Russia boycotted Turkish goods, including turkeys. Turkey struck a deal with the EU to stop migrants travelling to Europe in return for €3 billion in cash and renewed talks on its joining the EU; within hours Turkey arrested 1,300 people it suspected of trying to go to Greece. The German parliament voted on sending reconnaissance aircraft, a frigate and 1,200 troops to Syria. The United States said it was deploying a specialised expeditionary force in Iraq and Syria. The al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, released 16 Lebanese security personnel held captive for 15 months in return for 13 Islamist prisoners. A bank in Dubai offered higher interest rates to fat people who used a pedometer.

In Paris, leaders of 140 countries, with representatives and 40,000 hangers-on, met to discuss steps against climate change at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties, called Cop21. The Prince of Wales told the conference: ‘It’s very simple. We must save our forests.’ Hamburg rejected a chance to hold the Olympic Games in 2024 by a vote of 51.7 per cent in a referendum.

The Pope was greeted with enthusiasm in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, where, at a mosque in Bangui he said: ‘Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.’ Brazil said that Zika fever, named after a Ugandan forest and spread by mosquitoes, was responsible for birth defects. President Xi Jinping of China visited Zimbabwe. The International Monetary Fund made the Chinese renminbi the world’s fifth reserve currency. Schools in Beijing were ordered to keep children indoors because of bad smog. A man shot dead three people at an abortion clinic at Colorado Springs. Japanese whaling ships set off for the Antarctic hunt. Drought drove feral hippopotamuses, which have bred since escaping from the zoo of the drugs baron Pablo Escobar in the 1990s, to wander into the town of Puerto Triunfo, Colombia. CSH