The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 4 May 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: Diane Abbott gives ‘worst-ever’ political interview; terrorist arrests in London

Portrait of the week | 4 May 2017
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Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, told Theresa May after dinner with her on 26 April, ‘I’m leaving Downing Street ten times more sceptical than I was before,’ according to an account in Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. At the dinner, also attended by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, and David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, Mrs May was said to have declared that Britain was not legally obliged to pay the EU ‘a penny’; Mr Juncker said ‘the EU is not a golf club’ with a subscription that could be cancelled at any time. ‘Let us make Brexit a success,’ May is said to have remarked, to which Mr Juncker replied: ‘Brexit cannot be a success.’ The next day, Mr Juncker got up early to ring Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and tell her that Mrs May was ‘deluded’ and ‘living in another galaxy’. Mrs May described the account as ‘Brussels gossip’. She later said: ‘I was described by one of my colleagues as a bloody difficult woman. And I said at the time the next person to find that out will be Jean-Claude Juncker.’ Mr Davis said Britain would not pay a €100 billion EU bill that suddenly plopped on to the table via the Financial Times.

The general election campaign was characterised chiefly by Mrs May repeating the phrase ‘Strong and stable government’. She also ate chips in Cornwall. On the first day of George Osborne’s editorship, the Evening Standard said Mrs May’s election campaign might become ‘no more than a slogan’. In a radio interview, Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said Labour would recruit 10,000 more police for £300,000. When this was queried she said it would cost £80 million. Jeremy Corbyn later said it would cost £300 million. British manufacturing grew in April at its fastest pace for three years. Sainsbury’s annual profits fell by 8 per cent. GDP grew by 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, compared with 0.7 per cent in the previous quarter.

Police arrested a 27-year-old man found with knives in Parliament Street; thought to be a British national, born overseas, he was said to have been known to MI5. In an unrelated incident, police said they had foiled an active terror plot after a woman was shot during a raid on a house in Willesden, north London, and six others arrested. Ian Paterson, 59, a surgeon, was convicted on 17 counts of wounding with intent nine women and a man on whom he performed life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason. Hundreds of people in NHS and private hospitals might also have been affected.


Turkey blocked Wikipedia, sacked 4,000 officials and suspended 9,000 police suspected of having links to the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in America. China hired 20,000 people to compile an online encyclopedia to compete with Wikipedia, some of which it blocks. Greece agreed to cut pensions again and lower tax thresholds to satisfy the international creditors on which it relies. Chancellor Angela Merkel visited President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Sochi ask him to protect gay rights. Ueli Steck, the Swiss mountaineer known for his speed, died in a fall on Everest, aged 40.

North Korea test-fired another ballistic missile, which exploded shortly after taking off. President Donald Trump of the United States, asked about Kim Jong-un, the North Korean ruler, said: ‘And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.’ Pope Francis called for international mediation over North Korea’s nuclear weapons goals. He was speaking on the plane home from Egypt, which he had visited at the invitation of Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar university. Pope Francis, the Coptic Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople met at a church where dozens of Copts had been murdered by the Islamic State last year. The Islamic State killed more than 30 people at a makeshift camp for Syrians and Iraqi refugees at Rajm al-Salibi in north-east Syria.

Leaders of the 27 EU countries took only four minutes to agree on a Brexit strategy at a meeting in Brussels. The first priority was to be the status of EU citizens in the UK. Payment to the EU and even the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic would have to be decided before any trade talks could begin. Michel Barnier published his own negotiating framework. President John Magufuli of Tanzania sacked 10,000 civil servants for having fake education certificates.       CSH