Portrait of the Week

The Spectator, May 21, 2016 | Go to article overview

Portrait of the Week


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In the Queen's Speech, the government made provision for bills against extremism and in favour of driverless cars, drones, commercial space travel and adoption. It proposed turning all prisons into academies or something similar and consolidating British rights while reducing the power of the House of Lords. The watchword was 'life chances'. Boris Johnson MP said that the EU was an attempt to recover the continent's lost 'golden age', under the Romans: 'Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically.' For his part, David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that in the event of Britain leaving the EU, 'Putin would be happy. I suspect al-Baghdadi [leader of the Islamic State] would be happy.' Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence party, said that if the Remain side won a narrow victory in the referendum there would have to be another one. Brighton council took out of service a dustcart painted with the Union flag lest it be mistaken for a Brexit 'battlebus'.

Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, told a conference on migration: 'For the EU to offer visa-free access to 75 million Turks to stem the flow of migrants across the Aegean seems perverse, like storing gasoline next to the fire one is trying to extinguish.' A report for the European Commission predicted that the visa arrangement with Turkey would mean 'increased mobility into the Schengen area of criminals and terrorists'. The annual UK rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, fell to 0.3 per cent in April, from 0.5 per cent in March; as measured by the Retail Prices Index it fell to 1.3 from 1.6 per cent. China's ICBC Standard Bank agreed to buy from Barclays a vault in London big enough to store 2,000 tons of gold.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told the Police Federation's annual conference that victims of domestic abuse were 'still being let down' and so she had asked Sir Tom Winsor, head of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, to investigate. Emergency services, the BBC discovered, were called to incidents in British prisons more than 26,600 times last year -- once every 20 minutes. The BBC said it was saving £15 million a year from its £4.722 billion expenditure by closing down BBC Food (but not BBC Good Food) online, threatening to make its 11,000 recipes almost impossible to find. …

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