Portrait of the week

Third Heathrow runway finally approved; Trump says he can pardon himself

9 June 2018

9:00 AM

9 June 2018

9:00 AM


A third runway at Heathrow Airport was approved by the cabinet; £2.6 billion was earmarked for compensation and soundproofing. Northern Rail brought in a temporary timetable that removed 165 train services a day until 29 July, but scores more trains were still cancelled; all trains to the Lake District were cancelled for a fortnight. Thameslink and Southern also wallowed in incapacity. Petrol prices rose by a record monthly sum of 6p in May to an average of 132.3p a litre. The government reduced its holding in the Royal Bank of Scotland from 70.1 to 62.4 per cent, losing £2.1 billion on selling the shares which it bought to save the bank in 2008. The Visa payment system failed for several hours and four days later Tesco Bank’s online services failed for hours.

The inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower in London last June heard that the ‘stay put’ strategy for residents pursued by the fire service had ‘effectively failed’ by 1.26 a.m., half an hour after the fire started. The firemen’s switch to operate a lift failed, so they had to walk up and down stairs in the 23-floor building. Safaa Boular, 18, of Vauxhall, London, was found guilty of plotting a grenade and knife attack on the British Museum with her mother and sister. Greene King removed the flag of Saudi Arabia from its World Cup bunting on hundreds of pubs after complaints about their displaying the Shahadah (‘There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God’).

The government gave permission for Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox to bid for Sky, as long as it sold Sky News if successful; the US company Comcast could also pursue its bid. Following a television drama about Jeremy Thorpe, police were told of the whereabouts of Andrew Newton, whom they had presumed dead. Mr Newton had shot dead Rinka, a Great Dane belonging to Norman Scott, during an alleged plot by Thorpe to murder him in 1975. So the police called on him in Dorking, Surrey, where he was living under the name Hann Redwin, but finding that he had nothing more to say, decided not to reopen enquiries. John Julius Norwich, the historical writer, died aged 88.


President Sergio Mattarella of Italy, having turned down Giuseppe Conte as prime minister of a coalition of Five Star (M5S) and League, decided to let him be prime minister after all, since his new nominee as economics minister, Giovanni Tria, favours continued membership of the euro. Tunisia protested when Matteo Salvini, the new Italian interior minister, accused it of deliberately sending galeotti (good-for-nothings, literally ‘galley-slaves’) across the Mediterranean. A day earlier, at least 112 people drowned when a boat crammed with 180 migrants sank off Tunisia.

The death of Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist living in Kiev, turned out to have been faked with the help of the SBU, the Ukrainian security service, purportedly to smoke out a man who would be paid for his killing; a suspect was arrested. The anti-immigrant Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) won the most seats, a quarter, in a general election. In Spain, Pedro Sanchez, the leader of the Socialists, with fewer than a quarter of the seats in parliament, was sworn in (without using a bible) as prime minister after the previous prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the People’s Party, lost a vote of confidence. In Catalonia, regional autonomy was resumed under Quim Torra. In Guatemala, scores of people were killed when the Fuego volcano poured out superheated rock, ash and mud, destroying villages. Egypt is to start importing rice, which it has exported for decades, to save water. While baptising 80 people in Lake Abaya in Ethiopia, Docho Eshete, a Protestant pastor, was killed by a crocodile.

The curious question arose of whether President Donald Trump of the United States could pardon himself. ‘I have the absolute right to PARDON myself,’ he tweeted, ‘but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?’ The United States said that preparations were going well for the summit in Singapore on 12 June between Mr Trump and Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea. America’s new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports were criticised by finance ministers of G7 nations at a summit in Canada. America and China swapped unfriendly words over China’s activities in the disputed Spratly Islands. The US Supreme Court ruled that a Colorado baker was not obliged to make a gay wedding cake.           CSH.

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