The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 31 August 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: Hurricane Harvey turns Texas roads into rivers

Portrait of the week | 31 August 2017
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Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, announced a change in Labour’s policy by saying that he wanted Britain to stay in the single market and customs union during a transition period after Brexit, which could be ‘as short as possible but as long as necessary’. The French government denied that senior French diplomats had said they wanted to see Brexit talks make progress by proceeding to questions of trade. ‘We need you to take positions on all separation issues,’ said Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator. British sources denounced M. Barnier’s ‘inconsistent, ill- judged and ill-considered comments’. Then Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, joined in, saying that he had read the papers submitted by the British government and ‘none of those is satisfactory’. A Polish lorry driver was charged with eight counts of causing death by careless driving while over the prescribed alcohol limit after two lorries and a minibus crashed on the M1 near Newport Pagnell; another lorry driver will appear in court this month.

Kezia Dugdale, who had been under pressure from Corbynite factions, resigned as leader of Scottish Labour. Data from Home Office exit checks indicated that 69 per cent of non-EU foreign students went back home after their studies and 26 per cent extended their visas to remain longer; previous data based on the International Passenger Survey had suggested many stayed on without leave. Sean O’Callaghan, an IRA murderer who became an informer and later worked to expose the true nature of the IRA, died aged 62. Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, visited the Libyan military commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar near Benghazi. A 26-year-old man from Luton was arrested outside Buckingham Palace after driving at police, reaching for a 4ft sword and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’.

The government said that the biggest companies would have to reveal how much more their chief executives were paid compared with the average worker, but Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, called the reforms ‘feeble’. The Queensferry Crossing, a cable-stayed bridge with towers 683ft high, was opened to traffic between Edinburgh and Fife, while the Forth Road Bridge was to be turned over to buses, pedestrians and cyclists.


North Korea fired a missile over Japan, with residents of Hokkaido warned by the government to seek shelter. The UN Security Council called it ‘outrageous’. North Korea said it was a ‘first step’. Theresa May, the Prime Minister of Britain, arrived in Japan for a visit. China said India had withdrawn troops from the disputed Himalayan border area of Donglang, known as Doklam in India, a few days before a visit to China by Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India. The price of vanilla remained above $500 per kg after the cyclone early this year that hit Madagascar, the chief producer.

Houston, Texas, had more than 24 inches of rain in 24 hours, and the total soon rose above 48 inches, as Hurricane Harvey brought floods to large areas of the state. Freeways were turned into rivers and neighbours rescued each other in small craft while thousands left their homes. A midnight to 5 a.m. curfew was imposed to prevent looting. Thousands of people were told to leave their homes in Niamey, the capital of Niger, which has been affected by floods since June. Rome reduced the pressure of its water supply after months of drought. Russia proceeded with the construction of a 12-mile road and rail bridge over the Kerch Strait separating it from Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. Domino’s pizzas began testing delivery by self-driving cars in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to see if customers are happy to accept their pizza from an empty car.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, said that Iran was building factories to produce precision-guided missiles in Syria and Lebanon. President Emmanuel Macron of France bought a dog called Nemo from a rescue centre and took him to greet President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger when he arrived on a visit, even though keeping pet dogs is generally regarded as haram in Islam. The number of pet dogs in countries classified as emerging markets has grown by 51 per cent since 2003 to 243 million, according to the researcher Euromonitor. Kenya outlawed plastic carrier bags, with fines of up to $38,000 or prison sentences of four years for anyone found selling, making or carrying one.             CSH