The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 5 January 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: uneasy ceasefire in Syria, 39 shot dead in Istanbul terror attack, Ken Dodd is knighted

Portrait of the week | 5 January 2017
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Sir Ivan Rogers, Britain’s ambassador to the EU, resigned; he had been expected to play an important part in talks on Brexit. In a lengthy email to staff he said: ‘Free trade does not just happen when it is not thwarted by authorities.’ He referred to ‘ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking’ and noted that we do not know the ‘negotiating objectives for the UK’s relationship with the EU’. Southern railways advised hundreds of thousands of commuters not to try to travel during a three-day strike by train drivers, due to begin on Monday. China began a direct freight rail service to Barking in London. Len McCluskey, the head of the Unite union, said that if in 2019 opinion polls were ‘still awful’, Jeremy Corbyn would consider his position as leader of the Labour party, with the help of John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, because: ‘These two are not egomaniacs, they are not desperate to cling on to power for power’s sake.’ The faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons inveighed against ‘office cake culture’.

The government announced the sites of 14 ‘garden villages’, between them planned to provide 48,000 houses. They included 2,200 houses and a science park on a greenfield site in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds; 1,500 houses at Long Marston, Warwickshire, and up to 3,700 house at Spitalgate Heath near Grantham, Lincolnshire. Police shot dead a man called Yassar Yaqub on a slip-road of the M62 in an incident unrelated to terrorism. Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, said that voting with pencil and paper was ‘much more secure’ than electronic voting. John Berger, the Marxist art critic, died aged 90.

Among the 1,197 honoured at the New Year were six new Companions of Honour: Sir Roger Bannister, Sir Richard Eyre, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, Lady Warnock and Lady Williams of Crosby. Knights included Antony Beevor, the historian, Ray Davies of The Kinks, Ken Dodd, the comedian, Mark Rylance, the actor, Mo Farah, the runner and Andy Murray, the tennis player. The Rt Revd James Jones, the retired Bishop of Liverpool, was appointed KBE. Katherine Grainger, the Olympic rower, and Jessica Ennis-Hill, the Olympic athlete, were made dames, as was Professor Elizabeth Anionwu, for her work on the appeal that erected a statue of Mary Seacole, who ran a hotel in the Crimea. The government said 9.3 per cent of recipients were of black, Asian or minority ethnic origin and 8.5 per cent considered themselves disabled. The Queen was too unwell with a ‘heavy cold’ to attend church for a second Sunday.


Syria began an uneasy ceasefire, agreed through the intervention of Russia and Turkey. It did not cover hostilities against the Islamic State or forces such as those of the Fatah al-Sham Front, formerly known as the Nusra Front and linked to al-Qaeda. Fighting continued over Wadi Barada outside Damascus. A gunman fired 180 shots into the crowded Reina nightclub in Istanbul in the early hours of New Year’s Day, killing 39, then escaped. The Islamic State said the shooting was done on its behalf. An Islamic State car bomb killed 35 in a square in Sadr City, a Shia district of Baghdad. Two days earlier two Islamic State bombs in al-Sinak market in Baghdad killed 28. Iraqi forces resumed their attack on Mosul, with the aim of retaking the city from the Islamic State. Hilarion Capucci, the Melkite Archbishop in Jerusalem from 1965 until his arrest by Israel in 1974 on charges of arms smuggling, died aged 94.

President-elect Donald Trump of the United States, said it was ‘very smart’ of President Vladimir Putin not to respond with tit-for-tat expulsions after President Barack Obama of the United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats because he held Russia responsible for cyber-attacks on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In Hollywood, a joint funeral was planned for the actress Debbie Reynolds, who died aged 84, and for her daughter, the actress Carrie Fisher, who died a day earlier, aged 60.

Fire destroyed scores of houses in Valparaiso, Chile. A riot left at least 56 dead at the Anisio Jobim prison in Amazonas state in Brazil. The Volkswagen Golf topped car sales in Sweden, the first time since 1962 that Volvo has been outsold. Hitler’s Mein Kampf sold 85,000 copies of a new edition in Germany in a year. More than 1,000 sub-Saharan Africans tried to storm the 20ft fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. Plagues of army worms invaded maize fields in six of Zambia’s ten provinces.       CSH