Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Jubilee celebrations, energy bill discounts and a trade deal with Indiana

4 June 2022

9:00 AM

4 June 2022

9:00 AM

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The Jubilee for the Queen’s 70 years on the throne was marked by two days of public holiday, 16,000 street parties, a service at St Paul’s, Trooping the Colour, late pub opening, beacons, bells, and anxiety about the Queen’s health. After Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced in parliament that he had added £15 billion of public money to the £9 billion allocated in the spring statement to relieving energy bills, the nation questioned what it meant for their pockets and for Conservative politics. The government would get some of the money for the plan from a windfall tax, or ‘energy profits levy’, of 25 per cent on the profits of oil and gas producers, expected to yield £5 billion this year. Everyone would get an energy bill discount of £400 in October, instead of the £200 loan already offered. Eight million households on means-tested benefits would get £650. Pensioner households would get a winter fuel payment of £300 instead of £200. Before the statement the Prime Minister had remarked in cabinet: ‘How many of you actually remember the 1970s?’

Naturally, political commentators saw the timing of the Chancellor’s statement as an attempt by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, to distract attention from the findings of the Sue Gray report into breaches in No. 10 of coronavirus laws. The report left a strong impression of civil servants and advisers behaving badly with alcohol; someone was sick, a children’s swing broken, red wine spilt on the wall. There were ‘multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff’. Gray declared that it was ‘not appropriate or proportionate’ to investigate the ‘Abba’ party, at which the song ‘The Winner Takes It All’ was played in the Prime Minister’s flat on 13 November 2020 to celebrate Dominic Cummings’s departure. Parliament’s privileges committee was expected to examine whether the Prime Minister had misled parliament. The members of Abba attended the first night of a show in east London that features holograms of their younger selves.


By 21 May about a million people in the United Kingdom had Covid, according to the Office for National Statistics, compared with nearly five million at the end of March. Numbers remaining in hospital fell to about 5,500 – 1,000 fewer than a week earlier. Cases of monkeypox in Britain rose to 101 by the beginning of the week. Lester Piggott, the jockey who won the Derby a record nine times, died aged 86. Britain signed a trade deal with the American state of Indiana. Half-term travel was disrupted, with easyJet cancelling 240 flights in ten days. In a marina at Torquay, fire engulfed an 85ft yacht, which sank.

Abroad

To avoid being surrounded, Ukrainian troops planned a withdrawal from Severodonetsk, where 12,000 or so of the population of 100,000 remained, and the mayor said that 90 per cent of buildings had been damaged by continuous shelling. Russia took Lyman, population 20,000, on a strategic railway and road. ‘They want to burn the Donbas – to make it uninhabitable,’ President Volodymyr Zelensky said, accusing Russia of genocide.

Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, met President Zelensky in Kyiv; Boris Johnson spoke to him on the telephone. Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France held an 80-minute telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, urging him to hold ‘direct serious negotiations’ with President Zelensky. Putin told them that supplying arms to Ukraine was ‘dangerous’. Germany had not supplied any significant weapons to Ukraine since the end of March, Die Weltreported. The wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church still affiliated to the Patriarch of Moscow declared full autonomy; it represents 14 per cent of Ukrainians.

The total in the world reported to have died with Covid reached 6,310,683. Despite phone calls from pupils inside begging for police to come, it was found that officers delayed for more than an hour entering the classroom at the school at Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman eventually killed 19 children. In a field in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where a church was handing out food to the poor, 31 were killed in a crush. Liverpool fans who ‘behaved in an exemplary manner’ according to Merseyside police were teargassed by French police at the Champions League final in Paris, which Real Madrid won.

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