Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Sunak vs Truss, London dodges a blackout and 94st walrus capsizes boats

30 July 2022

9:00 AM

30 July 2022

9:00 AM


In a television debate between the two contenders for the leadership of the Conservative party (and hence the prime ministership), Rishi Sunak said it would be irresponsible to put the country in even more debt by cutting taxes and Liz Truss said that the tax rises he approved would put Britain into a recession. Mr Sunak was criticised for interrupting. A later proposal he made to cut VAT when the price cap on energy bills rose above £3,000 only brought accusations of a U-turn. He agreed to be interviewed by Andrew Neil on Channel 4, but Ms Truss didn’t. Opinion polls put Ms Truss well ahead among Conservative voters; Labour voters preferred Mr Sunak. Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, made a speech favouring ‘growth, growth and growth’, in pursuit of which he would establish an Industrial Strategy Council to set out ‘national priorities that go beyond the political cycle’. Lord Trimble died aged 77. As the Ulster Unionist leader he was awarded the Nobel peace prize with John Hume, the SDLP leader, in 1998.

The Commons health and social care select committee, chaired by the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, said the National Health Service faced its worst workforce crisis. The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus rose to one in 17 in England and one in 15 in Scotland (from one in 19 and one in 16 a week earlier), according to surveys by the Office for National Statistics. Deaths involving Covid in the United Kingdom had totalled more than 200,000 by June.

National Grid had paid £9,724 per megawatt hour, more than 50 times the typical price, to Belgium the day after the hottest day, to prevent London losing power. Talk turned to drought after the driest first half of the year since 1976. The M20 motorway was used for parking by lorries waiting to cross the Channel, leading to traffic jams of passengers’ cars on other roads lasting up to 20 hours. France was blamed for not supplying enough officers to stamp passports. Passengers were advised not to try to travel by train when the RMT went on strike again. The Commonwealth Games opened in Birmingham. The entire board of Cricket Scotland resigned the day before a report by the diversity group Plan4Sport on behalf of Sportscotland cited 448 examples of institutional racism. In the week to July 24, 610 migrants in small boats reached England from France, according to the Ministry of Defence. Rwanda said it had the capacity to accommodate only 200 Channel migrants if Britain sent any.


Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements in Istanbul, under the aegis of the UN, intended to guarantee the export of grain, on which millions in Africa depend to avoid starvation. Russia would not attack ports while shipments were in transit; Ukrainian vessels would guide cargo ships through mined waters; Turkey would inspect ships; Russian exports of grain and fertiliser via the Black Sea would also be facilitated. Hours after the agreements, Russia launched a missile attack on Odessa. Russia said it hit a ship and US-supplied anti-ship missiles. Ukraine said two of the four Russian missiles were destroyed in the air. After a ten-day maintenance break, Russia’s Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline was providing only 20 per cent of its normal supply to EU countries anxious to build up gas before the winter. Ukraine called it blackmail. EU countries agreed a voluntary 15 per cent reduction in gas use in the next seven months. A 94-stone female walrus called Freya capsized boats while attempting to bask in the sun in Oslo.

Mario Draghi’s resignation as prime minister was accepted by the President of Italy at the second time of asking, ending an 18-month coalition. In 24 hours Italy rescued 674 people and recovered five dead bodies from an overcrowded fishing boat off the coast of Calabria; another 522 rescued from 15 boats were brought to Lampedusa. Japan executed a 39-year-old man who killed seven people in Tokyo in 2008 during a stabbing rampage.

President Joe Biden of the United States, aged 79, continued to work despite contracting Covid. The EU approved a smallpox vaccine against monkeypox after the World Health Organisation declared it a global emergency. More than 200 people were killed in gang violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in ten days. The Pope toured Canada apologising for the ‘disastrous error’ of church personnel who worked in government-funded residential schools for indigenous people whom the state sought to assimilate. CSH

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