The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 4 September 2014

Portrait of the week | 4 September 2014
Text settings


Britain’s terror threat level was raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ in response to fighting in Iraq and Syria, meaning that an attack on Britain was ‘highly likely’. Three days later, David Cameron, the Prime Minister, in a hesitant statement to the Commons, proposed that: police should be able to seize temporarily at the border the passports of people travelling overseas; there should be all-party talks on drawing up powers to prevent suspected British terrorists returning to Britain; those under terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) should be subject to ‘stronger locational constraints’. The Celtic Manor Resort (rooms from £77), near Junction 24 on the M4 outside Newport, prepared to accommodate the Nato summit, the largest gathering of international leaders ever to take place in Britain.

Brett and Naghemeh King took their son Ashya, aged five, who has a brain tumour, from a hospital in Southampton. Hampshire Constabulary obtained a European arrest warrant and the couple were arrested in Spain and sent to jail in Madrid for two nights while a judge considered a British extradition request; their son was taken to hospital in Malaga. After 100,000 people signed an online petition demanding the boy be reunited with his parents, the British Crown Prosecution Service went to court to withdraw the arrest warrant. Mr Cameron tweeted: ‘I welcome the prosecution against #AshyaKing’s parents being dropped.’ On LBC radio he said: ‘Watching the pictures of him brought back memories of my desperately ill young boy, Ivan’ (who died, aged six, in 2009). The handling by South Yorkshire police of the searching of a house belonging to Sir Cliff Richard, which was shown live on BBC television, was ‘incompetent’ in the opinion of the Home Affairs Select Committee, its chairman Keith Vaz told David Crompton, the chief constable, when he appeared before it.

A plan backed by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, for an island airport in the Thames Estuary was rejected by Sir Howard Davies, the chairman of the Airports Commission, because of cost, logistics and environmental problems. A YouGov poll for the Sun found 48 per cent of voters said they would vote ‘no’ to Scottish independence, and 42 per cent ‘yes’. In response sterling fell sharply and British borrowing costs rose. Clacton in Essex is to hold a by-election on 9 October, following the resignation of his seat by Douglas Carswell, who had suddenly left the Conservatives to join the UK Independence Party. In the face of strong opposition to his choice for the next Clerk of the House of Commons, John Bercow, the Speaker, told the House: ‘I believe that a modest pause in the recruitment process is desirable.’


The Islamic State posted a video online purporting to show the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist it had held hostage. A man with an English accent said a British hostage would be next. The UN said reports from Iraq revealed ‘acts of inhumanity on an unimaginable scale’. The siege of Amerli, a town of Shia Turkmen surrounded by Islamic State forces, was lifted by an alliance of Iraq government forces, Iran-backed Shia militias and Kurdish Peshmerga. Saudi Arabia arrested 88 people accused of plotting attacks inside and outside the country. America carried out air strikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia. Boko Haram seized the town of Bama in Nigeria after fierce fighting with government forces. A two-headed snake was found in Turkey.

President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine said that he had agreed a ‘permanent ceasefire’ in a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Ukraine’s army had earlier been forced to withdraw from Luhansk airport by a Russian tank attack. The numbers who had fled their homes for refuge elsewhere in Ukraine had doubled in three weeks to at least 260,000, a UN official said; another 814,000 people had crossed into Russia. Nato announced plans for a rapid response force of several thousand troops to protect eastern European members against Russian aggression. Federica Mogherini, the Italian foreign minister, was designated as the EU’s foreign affairs chief, to succeed Lady Ashton. Five geckos put into space on a Russian satellite, for their sex lives to be studied, froze to death when the heating failed.

The Chinese government ruled out open nomination of candidates for election as the chief executive of Hong Kong, despite its earlier promises. More than 1,550 people had died of Ebola fever in West Africa, but Ivory Coast went ahead with its Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone in Abidjan. Lava poured from a fissure near the Bárðarbunga volcano in Iceland.      CSH