The Spectator

Portrait of the Week: Knighthoods, Northern Ireland and Mick Jagger

Portrait of the Week: Knighthoods, Northern Ireland and Mick Jagger
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The British economy contracted by 0.3 per cent in April after shrinking by 0.1 per cent in March, according to the Office for National Statistics. Wages by April were 2.2 per cent lower in real terms than a year before, and economic inactivity fell by only a smidgen (0.1 per cent) to 21.3 per cent. Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, urged the Competition and Markets Authority to see whether a 5p cut in fuel duty, from 58p to 53p a litre, was being passed on quickly enough to drivers. VAT at 20 per cent is charged on the price including duty. The Duke of York, on family advice, took no part in the Garter Day procession to see the Duchess of Cornwall and Sir Tony Blair installed.

A plane with asylum-seekers to be deported to Rwanda did not take off after the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights. The High Court had declined to grant an injunction and the Appeal Court agreed; a full judicial review is to be heard in July. On the Rwanda question, the Prince of Wales ‘thinks the government’s whole approach is appalling’, according to an anonymous account of a private conversation published by the Times. At least 270 migrants from small boats landed in Dover on the day of the planned flight. A Bill was published allowing ministers to override parts of the Northern Ireland protocol. Products arriving from Great Britain marked as only for sale in Northern Ireland (such as many supermarket goods) would be subjected to no red tape; seed potatoes, plants and trees would also be allowed in. A ‘dual regulatory system’ would govern standards. Ministers would regain control of tax and state aid in Northern Ireland. Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, insisted, in contradiction of claims by Sinn Fein: ‘We are very clear that we’re acting in line with the law.’ She said of Northern Ireland: ‘We need to get power-sharing re-established.’

Numbers remaining in hospital with Covid, below 5,000 over the Jubilee weekend, rose to a little over 5,000. Figures from the Office for National Statistics for the week ending 2 June suggested that one in 68 had Covid, an increase from one in 70 a week earlier. Sir Mick Jagger caught Covid. Bruce Kent, the former Catholic priest active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, died aged 92. Dame Paula Rego, the painter, died aged 87.

Abroad

Ukraine said about 10,000 of its soldiers had died since Russia invaded; Russian losses are put at about 15,000 by British intelligence sources. Russia used its superior numbers and artillery to ‘gradually seize territory in and around Severodonetsk’, the British Ministry of Defence said. Russian forces shelled the bridges over the river separating Severodonetsk from Lysychansk, making civilian rescue impossible. Fire took hold as Russian forces shelled the huge Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, where 800 civilians were reported to be sheltering. More than 100,000 people remained trapped in occupied Mariupol in terrible conditions, the city’s mayor Vadym Boychenko said. Jordan Gatley, who left the British army in March, was shot dead in Severodonetsk while fighting with Ukraine. Two British citizens serving with the Ukrainian armed forces, captured at Mariupol, together with a Moroccan, were sentenced to death by a court in Russian-controlled Donetsk. Russian passports began to be issued to residents of Russian-controlled Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, visited President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv to discuss Ukraine becoming a candidate to join the EU. Russia earned $97 billion in revenue from fuel exports in the first 100 days of the Ukraine conflict, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, with $59 billion worth going to the EU. France greatly increased imports of Russian liquefied natural gas. India increased the crude oil it bought from Russia. Ukraine’s grain harvest will fall to about 48.5 million tons this year from 86 million tons last year, the Ukrainian deputy agriculture minister said. Annual inflation in the United States rose to 8.6 per cent in May, its highest since 1981. Morocco reported its first case of monkeypox; the WHO sought a nicer name for it.

Officials traced 166 Covid infections in Beijing to the Heaven Supermarket Bar in the Sanlitun area. Most children in the city were not allowed to return to school this week as planned. Justin Bieber, the Canadian singer, announced that the right half of his face had been paralysed from Ramsay Hunt syndrome. CSH