The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 8 June 2017

Also in Portrait of the Week: Qatar blockaded by Saudi Arabia; gay son of immigrants to be Irish Taoiseach

Portrait of the week | 8 June 2017
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Eight people were killed and 48 taken to hospital when three men, in a hire van travelling south shortly after 10 p.m. on Saturday, ran into pedestrians on London Bridge, then jumped out with knives and attacked people in pubs and restaurants around Borough Market. A policeman tackled one of the knifemen with a truncheon and was wounded. At 10.16 p.m., police firing 46 shots killed the men, who were wearing fake explosive vests with visible canisters. A bystander was wounded in the head by a police bullet. Police led people to safety and cleared a wide area. The Islamic State said it was behind the attack. Police named the murderers, two from Barking, East London, as Khuram Butt, aged 27, a British citizen born in Pakistan, and Rachid Redouane, aged 30, who had claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan. The third man, Youssef Zaghba, 22, a Moroccan-born Italian, had been arrested in Italy last year trying to get into Syria, and his name put on an EU-wide database. The ringleader, Butt, had featured in a Channel 4 documentary The Jihadis Next Door. Police arrested a dozen men and women in Barking but released them without charge. The Conservatives and Labour suspended their election campaigns for a day.

The morning after the attack, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said: ‘The general election will go ahead as planned.’ She said ‘enough is enough’ and that we ‘must not pretend that things can continue as they are’. She suggested four ways to change them: first she sought the defeat of ‘an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam’; secondly she would seek ‘international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning’; thirdly she wanted ‘far more robust’ action to stamp out ‘tolerance of extremism in our country’, which would ‘require some difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations’; fourthly she wanted ‘to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need’.

The country went to the polls. One week earlier, the Conservative candidate for South Thanet was charged with over-spending in the 2015 campaign; he demanded of the Crown Prosecution Service and Kent police: ‘Why leave this until a few days before the election?’ A day before polling, Labour replaced Diane Abbott, who was unwell, as shadow home secretary with Lyn Brown. Peter Sallis, the actor best known for Last of the Summer Wine and as the voice of Wallace in Wallace and Gromit, died aged 96. Adnan Khashoggi, the billionaire Saudi arms dealer, died in London aged 81. Willie Walsh, the head of the group that owns British Airways, said the computer failure that stranded 75,000 passengers was caused by human error when an engineer disconnected a power supply. A new head was sought for Foula Primary School, Shetland, which has one pupil.


Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain simultaneously withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, followed by Yemen, the Maldives, Libya and Jordan. Saudi Arabia closed its border, blaming Qatar for collaboration with ‘Iranian-backed terrorist groups’. Qatar was also criticised for allegedly paying a ransom of a billion dollars for the release of members of the royal family kidnapped in Iraq while hunting bustard with falcons. Kurdish and Arab fighters, backed by the United States, launched an offensive to capture the Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa in Syria. A bomber and gunmen attacked the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum. Police shot a man outside Notre-Dame in Paris after he attacked an officer using a hammer.

Montenegro joined Nato. After the European Central Bank said that Spain’s Banco Popular was ‘failing or likely to fail’, Santander bought it for one euro. Fine Gael elected as its leader Leo Varadkar, the 38-year-old homosexual son of an Indian immigrant. He will become the prime minister of Ireland when parliament sits next week. In Turin, the noise of a firework set off a stampede by a crowd watching a Juventus football match on outdoor screens, leaving 1,500 people injured, seven seriously.

Queensland gave approval for the Indian company Adani to construct a coal-mining complex covering 95 square miles. South Africa fell into recession for the first time since 2009. Disgruntled investors in a troubled zoo in Yancheng city in the Jiangsu province of China, ‘in a fit of rage’ pushed a donkey into a tiger enclosure, where it was devoured.       CSH