Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Sue Gray reports, ScotRail slashes trains and monkeypox spreads

28 May 2022

9:00 AM

28 May 2022

9:00 AM


Sue Gray starched and ironed her report for publication after the Metropolitan Police wound up its own enquiries into breaches of coronavirus laws in and around Downing Street, with 126 fixed penalty notices being issued, only one to Boris Johnson. Meanwhile the nation contemplated photographs published by ITV News of the Prime Minister raising a glass at Downing Street on 13 November 2020. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said in an interview: ‘I would want to see Moldova equipped to Nato standard. This is a discussion we’re having with our allies.’ A ballot of 40,000 members prepared the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union for a national strike. ScotRail cut a third of trains from its timetable in a dispute with Aslef, the train-drivers’ union.

Monkeypox spread, with 71 cases detected in Britain and dozens in 11 other countries. In the seven days to 20 May, 725 people died with coronavirus, bringing total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 177,977. In the week before that, 1,040 had died. The Office for National Statistics estimated that 1.27 million people, 2 per cent of the population, had coronavirus in the week ending 13 May. Numbers with Covid remaining in hospital fell from about 8,500 to about 6,700. The Queen visited the Chelsea Flower Show driven about in a buggy by a chauffeur in a cap.

The typical household energy bill will rise by about £800 a year in October, Jonathan Brearley, the chief executive of Ofgem, said, with the price cap rising to £2,800. Government borrowing was lower than expected in April at £18.6 billion, £5.6 billion less than in April 2021; estimated borrowing for 2021-22 was also £7.2 billion less that previously thought. The Paddington to Abbey Wood branch of the Elizabeth line in London opened with a ritual fire alarm evacuation at Paddington.


Russia overran much of the Luhansk region of Ukraine. In an offensive described by Ukraine as ‘the largest on European soil since World War II’, it attacked Severodonetsk from four directions. Poland had sent a ‘very large number’ of tanks to Ukraine, the Polish president said. Photographs of Rubizhne, population 60,000 before the war, resembled those of ruined Mariupol after Russian bombardment. The Ukrainian government complained of deportation of civilians to Russia. Russia said that 2,439 soldiers and ‘neo-Nazis’ had surrendered at the captured Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. A Russian missile-strike, caught on video, destroyed the newly renovated House of Culture at Lozova, in the Kharkiv region. A court in Ukraine jailed for life a Russian tank commander, Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, for following an order to shoot dead a civilian, Oleksandr Shelipov, 62, in the north-eastern village of Chupakhivka on 28 February. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said of the effects of the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports on global food supplies: ‘I can tell you on a scale of one to ten, I’m probably at the ten level of alarm.’ Boris Bondarev, from the Russian mission to the UN, resigned as a diplomat, calling the war ‘a crime’. Having suspended electricity sales to Finland after it applied to join Nato, Russia stopped natural gas sales too. Finance ministers from the G7 agreed a further $9.5 billion of financial aid for Ukraine.

An 18-year-old man shot dead 19 children and two adults at an elementary school at Uvalde, Texas, and was himself shot dead. Asked if the United States would defend Taiwan if China invaded, President Joe Biden responded: ‘Yes… that’s the commitment we made.’ Thousands of photographs and documents obtained by the BBC detailed China’s mass incarceration and ill treatment of Uighurs. Canada said it was banning China’s Huawei and ZTE from working on its 5G phone networks; Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand had already put restrictions on the companies. After a general election, Anthony Albanese, the leader of the Labor party, became prime minister of Australia and Scott Morrison resigned as leader of the Liberals when his coalition was defeated.

In Afghanistan the Taliban ordered women TV presenters to cover their faces. The total in the world reported to have died with Covid reached 6,301,746; the United States had lost more than a million. Zimbabwe, with a quarter of Africa’s elephants, pleaded to be allowed to sell some of its ivory stockpile to finance their conservation. Sri Lanka defaulted on its debt for the first time. Vangelis, who wrote the score to Chariots of Fire, died aged 79. Dervla Murphy, the travel writer, died aged 90.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments