The Spectator

Portrait of the week: Rail strikes, rates rise and a record-breaking stingray

Portrait of the week: Rail strikes, rates rise and a record-breaking stingray
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A rail strike on three alternate days, bringing the system to a standstill for a week, was organised by the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers’ union. On the first day, the London Underground came out too. Tram drivers in south London arranged a strike of their own. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, instructed his frontbenchers not to join strikers’ picket lines, but some did. EasyJet announced plans to cut 7 per cent of its 160,000 flights scheduled between July and September after Gatwick, easyJet’s main airport, said it would reduce the number of flights taking off. Flights carrying up to 5,000 passengers were cancelled at Heathrow airport on one day because of trouble with baggage-handling. The Treasury confirmed that the state pension triple lock was being reinstated, meaning that pensions would rise by about 10 per cent; benefits would also rise by the rate of inflation. Interest rates were raised by the Bank of England from 1 per cent to 1.25 per cent, the highest level in 13 years. Inflation rose from 9 to 9.1 per cent.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, had an NHS operation on his sinuses under general anaesthetic at 6 a.m. on Monday. Three days earlier he had made another visit to Kyiv to shake President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hand and announce training for Ukrainian servicemen. His absence meant he missed an engagement with the Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs, annoying some of them. General Sir Patrick Sanders, the new Chief of the General Staff, said in an internal message: ‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underlines our core purpose – to protect the UK and to be ready to fight and win wars on land – and reinforces the requirement to deter Russian aggression.’

Lord Geidt tried to explain why he had resigned as the Prime Minister’s ethics adviser. He had been asked for advice on an issue he believed would amount to a deliberate breach of the ministerial code, he said, and ‘this request has placed me in an impossible and odious position’. He later added that claims he resigned over steel tariffs were a ‘distraction’ from the real reason. The proportion of people with Covid rose by 10 June to one in 50 in England and one in 30 in Scotland, a survey by the Office for National Statistics found. The number in hospital with Covid rose from a low of about 5,000 to about 6,000, though most had been admitted for other things. Barristers belonging to the Criminal Bar Association voted to strike over Legal Aid.

Abroad

Russia continued its artillery assault in the Donbas region and renewed attacks on Kharkiv. Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, called Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports, preventing export of grain, a ‘real war crime’. Russia warned Lithuania of ‘serious’ consequences after it stopped the rail transfer of some goods to the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad. The Secretary General of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, said: ‘It could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine.’ Russia became China’s biggest supplier of oil, displacing Saudi Arabia. Dmitry Muratov, the Russian editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, auctioned his Nobel Peace Prize medal for £84 million in aid of Unicef’s work for Ukrainian refugees.

President Emmanuel Macron of France lost his majority in parliament with the broad left-wing alliance under Jean-Luc Mélenchon winning 131 of the 577 seats and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally 89; both left and right oppose the President’s attempt to raise the retirement age gradually from 62 to 65. Israel is to hold its fifth general election in three years; until then its prime minister, Naftali Bennett, will swap places with the alternate prime minister, Yair Lapid. In America, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.75 of a percentage point to a target range of 1.50 to 1.75 per cent.

Fina, the world governing body of swimming, barred transgender women from elite female competitions if they had experienced any part of male puberty. The Rugby League authorities followed suit. A French court, the Conseil d’Etat, prohibited Grenoble from allowing burkinis to be worn in public swimming pools. A court in Japan, the only country in the G7 not to allow people of the same sex to marry, ruled that the prohibition was not unconstitutional. American-led coalition forces said they had captured a senior leader of the jihadist Islamic State, named as Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi, in a helicopter raid near the Turkish border in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, held by opposition forces. A nasty-looking freshwater stingray weighing 661lb was caught in the Mekong in Cambodia. CSH