Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: A bombshell by-election, Scotland bans Mancunians and China staffs its space station

26 June 2021

9:00 AM

26 June 2021

9:00 AM


The government contemplated its promised Planning Bill, blamed for contributing to the astonishing victory for the Liberal Democrat Sarah Green in the Chesham and Amersham by-election. She had gained 21,517 votes to transform the former Conservative majority of 16,223 into one of 8,028. Labour did worse than in any by-election before, securing only 622 votes, 1.6 per cent of the total. John Bercow, the former Speaker, joined the Labour party. Clayton Dubilier & Rice, an American private equity company, offered to buy Morrisons, the supermarket chain, for £5.5 billion. White working-class pupils in England have been failed by decades of neglect, the Education Select Committee found in a report. A Unesco committee recommended Liverpool should lose its World Heritage status because new developments meant ‘irreversible loss’.

More than 99 per cent of new cases of Covid in England were of the Delta (formerly the Indian) variant. Scotland made it illegal to travel to or from Manchester and Salford. Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester, who had not been told, wrote to Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, to say it was ‘common courtesy’ to get in touch first. In the seven days to the beginning of the week, 62 people had died, bringing the total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus) to 127,970. By the beginning of the week, 59.5 per cent of the adult population had received two doses of vaccine; 81.6 per cent, a first dose. Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount could not play for England in Euro 2020, having hugged their Chelsea team-mate Billy Gilmour, who was found to have Covid, but England still went through to the last 16. Scotland were knocked out. Wales went through too, but Holland said it would not let Welsh fans into the country for the team’s next match on 26 June.

Edwin Poots was given his marching orders after three weeks as leader of the Democratic Unionist party. Following close behind was Paul Givan, who became First Minister of Northern Ireland only last week at Mr Poots’s instigation. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was to replace Mr Poots and looked about for a seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly so that he could become First Minister. The DUP had refused to support imposition of the Irish language, which made Sinn Fein refuse to nominate a Deputy First Minister. It also made the UK government say it would bring in provisions for Irish itself in October if no one else did. The ‘initial cost’ of the replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia would be paid for by the Ministry of Defence, Downing Street confirmed.


The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 3,875,657 by the beginning of the week: an increase of 57,931 from the week before. Morgan Stanley is to ban staff and clients who are not fully vaccinated from its New York offices. In Peru, the National Elections Jury examined ballots from the presidential elections in which initial results had the left-wing Pedro Castillo on 50.125 per cent and the right-wing Keiko Fujimori on 49.875 per cent. Two 19th-century Catholic churches on the Penticton Indian Band reserve and the Osoyoos Indian Band reserve in British Columbia, Canada, were burnt down on National Indigenous People’s Day. New Zealand selected its first transgender athlete, Laurel Hubbard, for its women’s Olympic weightlifting team.

In Hong Kong 500 police raided the pro-democracy paper Apple Daily, arresting its editor and freezing its assets; the paper had to close. Bitcoin fell below $30,000 (from a high of $64,870 in April) after China told its banks not to provide clearing and settlement for cryptocurrencies. China sent three astronauts to spend three months in its new space station. The Swedish parliament passed a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven. Spain pardoned nine Catalan separatists imprisoned for sedition in 2019, but they did not include Carles Puigdemont, who had fled abroad; mass protests met the act. Kenneth Kaunda, the first president of Zambia (1964-91), died aged 97.

In Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, a Shia Muslim cleric who heads the judiciary and is close to the Supreme Leader, was elected president with 62 per cent of the vote. The Taleban have taken 50 of Afghanistan’s 370 districts since May, a UN special envoy, Deborah Lyons, told the Security Council. Tasmanian devils on Maria Island in the Tasman Sea were accused of eating 3,000 pairs of penguins. CSH

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