The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 30 June 2016

Portrait of the week | 30 June 2016
Text settings


David Cameron, standing in the middle of Downing Street with his wife Samantha alone near him, announced his resignation as prime minister after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union by 17,410,742 votes (51.9 per cent) to 16,141,241 (48.1), with a turnout of 72.2 per cent. The result surprised the government. Mr Cameron said he’d stay on until a new Conservative party leader and prime minister could be chosen, before the party conference in October. In Scotland, 62 per cent of the vote was to remain and in London 59.9 per cent. The area with the highest Leave percentage was Boston, Lincolnshire, with 75.6, and the highest Remain percentage was in Lambeth, with 78.6 (apart from Gibraltar, which recorded 95.9 per cent in favour of remaining). Many places that had elected Labour MPs, such as Bolsover, Doncaster and Sunderland, voted Leave. An online petition to Parliament calling for a second referendum gathered more than three million signatures, of which 39,411 claimed to be residents of Vatican City, population 800.

The morning after the referendum, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, said that it would ‘not hesitate to take additional measures as required’ to meet market volatility. The pound fell to a level last reached in 1985. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, waited until Monday to make a short speech, saying: ‘We had to fix the roof so we were prepared for whatever the future held.’ He said that there was no need for the emergency Budget that he had threatened before the referendum. Standard & Poor’s reduced Britain’s credit rating by two notches from AAA to AA.

The Parliamentary Labour Party passed a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, the party leader, by 172 votes to 40. He said the ballot had ‘no constitutional legitimacy’. It followed his sacking of the shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, who press reports said was leading a plot to get rid of him. In response, 23 of the 31-strong shadow cabinet resigned, followed by 20 or so shadow ministers. Lord Hill of Oareford said he was resigning as the United Kingdom’s European Commissioner. Roy Hodgson resigned as manager of the England football team after it lost 2-1 to Iceland and was knocked out of the Euro 2016 championship. Matt LeBlanc was reported to be planning to leave Top Gear if his co-host Chris Evans did not resign first.


The European Parliament passed a motion urging Britain to start the process for leaving the EU immediately, by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. In the European Parliament Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, asked Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party: ‘The British people voted in favour of the exit — why are you here?’ ‘You all laughed at me,’ Mr Farage said. ‘Well, you’re not laughing now, are you?’ Mr Juncker, though he seemed sober, kissed Mr Farage. David Cameron visited Brussels for a meeting of the leaders of the 28 members of the EU, and then left while the other 27 discussed Britain’s future. Lady Gaga met the Dalai Lama.

Three gunmen set off bombs at Ataturk airport in Istanbul, killing at least 36. The government blamed the Islamic State. In Lebanon at least eight bombers blew themselves up in the predominantly Christian village of Qaa, killing five people and wounding two dozen. Three bomb attacks, for which the Islamic State was thought to be responsible, killed at least 35 people in the port city of Mukalla in Yemen. Nearly 200 refugees fleeing Boko Haram had starved to death in Bama, Nigeria, in June. The government of Colombia and Farc rebels signed a ceasefire after five decades of conflict that left 220,000 dead. A huge Chinese container ship became the first to pass through the new 48-mile lane of the Panama canal.

Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, proposed forming a government after his Popular party gained most seats in the general election, with 137 to the Socialists’ 85, with the lefty party Podemos securing 71 and the moderate Ciudadanos 32. Large quantities of helium, which had been running short, were found under the Rift Valley of Tanzania. An Indian company called Ringing Bells put on sale a smartphone priced at 251 rupees (£2.77). The rapper 50 Cent was arrested for using indecent language in a song at a concert in St Kitts and Nevis.    CSH