Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Record-breaking heat, a summer of strikes and a warning for snake-owners

23 July 2022

9:00 AM

23 July 2022

9:00 AM


In the contest for the leadership of the Conservative party, Jeremy Hunt and Nadhim Zahawi were the first of the eight contenders to be eliminated, followed by Suella Braverman, Tom Tugendhat and Kemi Badenoch. After two televised debates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the frontrunners, refused to take part in a third, which was cancelled. The debates were bitter and accompanied by negative briefings. Lord Frost said he had ‘grave reservations’ about Penny Mordaunt, and had ‘had to ask the PM to move her on’ when she was his junior during Brexit negotiations. After parliament rose for the summer two names were to be put before party members in a postal ballot. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, removed the Conservative whip from Tobias Ellwood when he failed to support the government in a vote of confidence it called in itself, which it won by 349 to 238.

A temperature above 40°C was recorded in Britain for the first time; it reached 40.3°C at Coningsby in Lincolnshire. A number of houses burnt down at Wennington, on the Essex-London border. The Met Office had issued a ‘red extreme heat warning’, which it invented last year; schools closed early; hospitals cancelled appointments; the RSPCA warned snake-owners to be ‘extra vigilant’ lest their enlivened pets escape; Network Rail told passengers to travel only if necessary and the East and West Coast mainlines closed. Railway workers in the RMT union will strike on 27 July and 18 and 20 August. Train drivers belonging to Aslef agreed to strike on 30 July. Communication Workers Union members at BT are to strike on 29 July and 1 August. Royal Mail workers voted to go on strike. Another 330 migrants arriving in seven small boats in the Channel brought the total for the year to more than 15,000.

The annual rate of inflation rose to 9.4 per cent in June, from 9.1 per cent in May. The government accepted the recommendations of pay review bodies for the NHS, police and teachers in full: more than a million NHS staff in England would get a rise of at least £1,400, with lowest earners getting up to 9.3 per cent. Michael Gove, the former levelling-up secretary, said: ‘There are some core functions – giving you your passport, giving your driving lessons – which are simply, at the moment, not functioning.’ The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus rose to one in 19 in England and one in 16 in Scotland (from one in 25 and one in 17 a week earlier), according to surveys by the Office for National Statistics. Over-fifties will be offered a Covid booster this autumn.


Funerals were held for 24 people killed when Russian missiles hit the city of Vinnytsia, in west-central Ukraine far from the front lines. Five bodies were found in the rubble of a house shelled by Russia in Toretsk, in the Donetsk region, and another person died in hospital. The Ministry of Defence in London said Russia was using mercenaries from the Wagner group to reinforce front lines in Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky suspended the head of Ukraine’s spy agency and the prosecutor general (both of whom parliament then voted to dismiss), saying that more than 60 former employees were working against Ukraine in Russian-occupied areas and that 651 collaboration and treason cases had been opened against law enforcement officials. Russia fined Google 21.1 billion roubles ($373 million) for failing to restrict access to ‘prohibited’ material about the war.

Russia’s Gazprom invoked force majeure for a shortfall in gas supplies in June to German customers; fears grew in Germany that the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from Russia would not be reopened after the end of its annual maintenance this week. President Vladimir Putin of Russia visited Iran, where he met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who had offered to try to arrange grain exports from Ukraine. The 17th-century Shah mosque in Isfahan was found to have been damaged during restoration work on the dome.

President Joe Biden fist-bumped Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit to Saudi Arabia, having visited Israel on the way. High temperatures and wildfires affected Spain, Portugal, France and Greece. Drought left 20 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia at risk of starvation. Sri Lankan MPs chose Ranil Wickremesinghe, the prime minister, as the country’s new president. Two people in Ghana died from Marburg virus and 98 were quarantined. CSH

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