Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: as the waters continue to rise

15 February 2014

9:00 AM

15 February 2014

9:00 AM


Floods grew worse in the West Country. The village of Moorland, Somerset, was abandoned. Then the Thames flooded, from above Oxford to Teddington. Eventually, David Cameron, the Prime Minister, declared from Downing Street: ‘Money is no object in this relief effort.’ Some 1,600 troops were deployed. By midweek 1,000 houses had been evacuated. A storm had broken the rail line from Cornwall at Dawlish, which would take months to mend, as would the broken line from Barmouth to Criccieth. Landslides closed lines between Tonbridge and Hastings, between Machynlleth and Welshpool, and from Portsmouth via Eastleigh. Villagers at Wraysbury, Berkshire, complained of looting of abandoned houses. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said: ‘We are prepared to say we got it wrong, along with the Environment Agency, on dredging.’ Lord Smith of Finsbury, the chairman of the Environment Agency, said that his staff ‘know a hundred times more about flood risk management than any politician’. Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, recovering from an eye operation, complained to David Cameron ‘in the strongest possible terms’ about Mr Pickles’s ‘grandstanding’.

Mark Harper resigned as immigration minister after he discovered his cleaner did not have permission to work in Britain; he was replaced by James Brokenshire. Under plans drawn up by Mr Brokenshire, the government attempted to block online extremist videos, even on foreign sites, that might radicalise young men. William Roache, aged 81, who has appeared in Coronation Street since it began in 1960, was found not guilty of rape and indecent assault after a trial at Preston Crown Court. Denis MacShane, the former Labour MP, was released after serving six weeks of a six-month sentence for expenses fraud.

Britain decided to order 14 F-35B fighters for £2.5 billion. MPs voted by a majority of 269 in favour of an amendment to the Children and Families Bill to ban smoking in cars when children are passengers. The TSSA and RMT unions agreed to suspend another 48-hour strike on the London Underground. David Cameron, in a speech at the Olympic stadium in London, called on people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ‘get on the phone, get together, email, tweet, speak’ to friends, neighbours and family in Scotland to vote against independence. Alex Salmond, the leader of Scottish National Party, called Mr Cameron a ‘big feartie’. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was minded to oppose a currency union with an independent Scotland. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, finessed his rule of thumb linking interest rates to unemployment. West Ham agreed to sell Upton Park to developers after their move to the Olympic stadium in 2016.


More than 1,100 Syrians escaped from Homs after both sides held a truce in the Old City, but about 190 were thought to have been detained by government forces. Earlier, Red Crescent and UN personnel came under fire as they tried to deliver food, water and medicine to some 3,000 civilians in rebel-held areas of the city. Desultory peace talks in Geneva continued. North and South Korea entered into surprise talks. Fresh talks to resolve the warfare in South Sudan opened in Addis Ababa. In Nanjing, China and Taiwan held their first high-level talks since the end of the civil war in 1949. An Algerian military transport plane crashed with 78 aboard; there was one survivor.

At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Jenny Jones won a bronze medal for Britain in the women’s snowboard slopestyle. Penguin India agreed to recall and destroy all remaining copies of The Hindus: An Alternative History, by Wendy Doniger, an American academic. A French court awarded €1 each to five Michael Jackson fans who sued the dead singer’s doctor for the ‘emotional damage’ they had suffered. Shirley Temple, the child film star, died, aged 85. Two members of Congress joined a campaign for the Washington Redskins to change their name. Clint Eastwood, by performing the Heimlich manoeuvre, saved the life of a golf tournament director who was choking on a piece of cheese.

The Duke of Cambridge went shooting deer and wild boar in Spain then joined his father in a broadcast promoting preservation of wildlife. The Infanta Cristina of Spain was questioned in court in Majorca about a corruption scandal involving her husband’s business dealings. A young giraffe called Marius was killed at Copenhagen Zoo, to prevent inbreeding, and fed to lions, despite an offer by Yorkshire Wildlife Park to take it in.           CSH

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