Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Brexit, Windrush resignations and the march of the toxic moth

5 May 2018

9:00 AM

5 May 2018

9:00 AM


The prospect of Brexit in name only hovered on the horizon as the government contemplated an association agreement with the EU, which Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed as ‘second-tier EU membership’. The cabinet’s Brexit sub-committee considered two ways of coping with the Irish problem: either a customs partnership with the EU, in which Britain would collect tariffs at the Irish border on behalf of the EU, or a combination of technology and trusted trader schemes to avoid a hard border. Peers voted 335 to 244 for an amendment, introduced by the Conservative Viscount Hailsham, to the EU Withdrawal Bill which would enable MPs to send ministers back to renegotiate with Brussels if parliament rejected the Brexit deal presented to it. A plague of European oak processionary moths, with hairy bodies that cause rashes and breathing difficulties, struck west London and as far afield as Slough.

Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary for giving unreliable answers about the existence of targets to deport illegal immigrants. Her successor, Sajid Javid, was photographed seeming to stand in the ‘power stance’ pioneered by George Osborne and Theresa May. Mr Javid was replaced at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government by James Brokenshire. Elections were held in more than 100 English local authorities and all 32 London boroughs, as well as for mayor of Tower Hamlets: a position sought by an Aspire party candidate, supported by the debarred Lutfur Rahman. Alfie Evans, a 23-month-old boy with a degenerative brain condition, whose parents were forbidden by the courts from taking him for care in Italy, died five days after artificial ventilation was withdrawn.

Sainsbury’s planned to merge with Asda, with Walmart taking 42 per cent of the new company. Sainsbury’s shares rose 15 per cent; Mike Coupe, Sainsbury’s chief executive, was caught on video singing ‘We’re in the Money’ before taking a sip of Caffè Nero coffee. Britain’s economy grew by just 0.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2018, a performance only partly explained by snow. Some 300 of Labour’s 552,000 members were said to have resigned over self-identified transgender women being put on all-women shortlists. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby was named Louis Arthur Charles.


Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, presented thousands of Iranian documents that he said proved Iran had lied by conducting a secret nuclear weapons programme. The day before his claims, missile strikes on military sites in Hama and Aleppo provinces in Syria, thought to be by Israel, were reported to have killed four Syrians and 22 others, mostly Iranians. More than 40 Tuaregs were killed by suspected jihadists in Mali. At least 27 people were killed by bombs at a mosque in Mub, a town in north-eastern Nigeria. In Afghanistan, at least 26 people died in two bombings in Kabul, including several journalists reporting from the scene. The strength of Afghan security forces has declined by 10 per cent in a year to fewer than 300,000, according to America’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Kim Jong-un, the North Korean ruler, and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea met and agreed to end hostilities and work on denuclearising the peninsula. Peppa Pig cartoons were removed from Chinese video platforms amid accusations that the character was being exploited for indecent and subversive ends. An Australian magistrate ruled that Cardinal George Pell must stand trial on charges of sexual assault, but not for an alleged assault in a Ballarat cinema during a screening of Close Encounters of The Third Kind, since the film was not being shown at the date alleged. India’s Supreme Court ordered the government to take action to prevent insect excrement turning the Taj Mahal green.

Nikol Pashinyan, the Armenian opposition leader, failed to be elected prime minister by MPs despite being the only candidate; Serzh Sargsyan, the former PM had resigned after demonstrations. A 26-storey building occupied by squatters in Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, collapsed after being engulfed in flames. French police arrested 109 as May Day rioters burnt cars and smashed shop windows. The official Twitter account of Sweden declared: ‘Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century.’ CSH

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