Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Sergei Skripal, Dame Louise Casey, Philip Hammond’s spring statement

17 March 2018

9:00 AM

17 March 2018

9:00 AM


Theresa May, the Prime Minister, told the Commons that the chemical that put in hospital Sergei Skripal, a Russian spy who had defected to Britain, his daughter Yulia, and the policeman who visited their home in Salisbury, belonged to a group of nerve agents called Novichok, developed by Russia. She said that Britain must take extensive measures, should there be no adequate explanation from Russia within two days; there was none. Some people criticised the tardiness with which Public Health England issued advice, a week after the crime, to up to 500 people who had used the same pub and restaurant as the stricken pair, telling them to wash ‘clothing that you were wearing in an ordinary washing machine’ and to ‘wipe personal items such as phones, handbags and other electronic items with cleansing or baby wipes’. Forensic teams in protective suits worked at the graves of Mr Skripal’s son Alexander, who died last year aged 43, and wife Liudmila, who died in 2012 aged 59.

Up to 1,000 children as young as 11 could have suffered at the hands of sex gangs in Telford, Shropshire, since the 1980s, according to an investigation by the Sunday Mirror, which said that ‘authorities failed to keep details of abusers from Asian communities for fear of “racism”.’ Dame Louise Casey, who wrote a report for the government on integration in 2016, said that a date should be set for everyone in Britain to speak English. Derryck John, aged 17, from Croydon, was jailed for ten and a half years for attacking six moped riders with acid while trying to steal their bikes. The Daily Mirror got hold of a video showing Jamie Carragher, a former footballer, spitting at a car next to his and succeeding in hitting a 14-year-old girl in the passenger seat; ‘It’s not something I’ve done before,’ he said, apologising.

In his spring statement Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said he was at his ‘most Tigger-like’, announcing that inflation was expected to fall to the target of 2 per cent next year and wages rise above that level. Public borrowing for 2017-18 would be about £45.2 billion, 2.2 per cent of national income, down from 10 per cent in 2009-10. He announced a review of currency that could see the abolition of penny and twopenny pieces, and a consultation on a tax on chewing gum, crisps and plastic coffee cups. Professor Stephen Hawking, the physicist, died aged 76. Anthony Lejeune, the journalist and crime novelist, died aged 89. Sir Ken Dodd, the comedian, died aged 90; he married Anne Jones, with whom he had lived for 40 years, two days before his death.


President Donald Trump of the United States sacked Rex Tillerson as
Secretary of State, replacing him with Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, whose post goes to his deputy Gina Haspel. Mr Tillerson was in Africa when Mr Trump suddenly accepted an offer to meet Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea; he hurried back to learn of his dismissal. Pro-government Syrian forces advanced into the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, displacing more of the hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped there. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, commenting on Brexit, told Leo Varadkar, the Prime Minister of Ireland, during a visit to Dublin, ‘If in London someone assumes that the negotiations will deal with other issues first, before moving to the Irish issue, my response would be: “Ireland first”.’

China’s National People’s Congress voted to lift the limitation on presidents serving only two terms, thus allowing President Xi Jinping to go on and on. Major General Ali al-Qahtani (an aide to Prince Turki bin Abdullah), who died in custody in Saudi Arabia in December, was reported by the New York Times to have been seen with his neck twisted unnaturally, as though it had been broken, and his body badly bruised; he was among 200 detained at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh until they handed over billions of dollars to the Saudi government; Saudi Arabia denied allegations of abuse.

Senator Shehu Sani revealed that each senator in Nigeria receives 13.5 million naira (£27,000) a month to use on expenses of his choice. Onesimus Twinamasiko, a Ugandan MP, said on television: ‘As a man, you need to discipline your wife. You need to touch her a bit, you tackle her, beat her somehow to really streamline her.’ Hubert de Givenchy, the haute couture designer, died aged 91.            CSH

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