Portrait of the week

Sexual misconduct claims leave government in crisis

11 November 2017

9:00 AM

11 November 2017

9:00 AM

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An air of crisis hung over the government. Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary, was told to fly back immediately from Africa after a series of secret meetings with Israeli political figures was revealed. Sir Michael Fallon had already gone as Defence Secretary, to be replaced by someone called Gavin Williamson, an MP since 2010 and Chief Whip since last year. Sir Michael’s departure followed a complaint that Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House, was said to have made to the Prime Minister about a remark some years ago — when she had said she had cold hands, he said: ‘I know where you can put them to warm them up.’

So many claims of sexual impropriety at Westminster flew about that it became hard to focus on any one of the starlings in the murmuration. Bob Quick, a former assistant commissioner of the Met, told a newspaper that police found pornography on a computer in the parliamentary office of Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, during a raid to investigate leaks in 2008; Mr Green this week called the claims ‘false, disreputable political smears from a discredited police officer’. Carl Sargeant, who was sacked as Labour cabinet secretary on communities and children in the Welsh Assembly and was suspended from the party after allegations about his conduct, was understood to have killed himself. A woman denounced Clive Lewis MP because, in a public room during the Labour Party conference, ‘we had a hug and while we were having a hug he gave my bum a big squeeze’. Professor Tariq Ramadan, under investigation in France over two allegations of rape, took leave of absence from Oxford University. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, called for a ‘new culture of respect’.


The Duchy of Lancaster had invested £10 million of the Queen’s own money in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, according to the BBC, which together with the Guardian pushed information from 13.4 million documents, nicknamed the Paradise Papers, hacked from the computer systems of Appleby, a provider of offshore legal services, and other sources. The documents had been shared by Süddeutsche Zeitung with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, suggested that the Queen should apologise. There was no suggestion that the Queen, who pays income tax voluntarily, was avoiding tax. Other celebrities featuring in the leaked hack included Bono, the singer, who invested in a Lithuanian shopping mall, and some actors from the BBC sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys, who had transferred their fees into companies in Mauritius. The energy supplier SSE set about forming a new UK energy company with its rival Npower, covering 22 per cent of customers. Mobile phone data could be used in place of census questions in the future, a report from the Office for National Statistics said.

Abroad

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia arrested 11 princes (including Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who owns the Savoy in London), four ministers and dozens of ex-ministers, reportedly imprisoning them in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. Saad Hariri announced from Riyadh that he was resigning as the Prime Minister of Lebanon, blaming Iran for spreading ‘disorder and destruction’; Mr Hariri had lost the support of Saudi Arabia. Earlier a ballistic missile fired from Yemen had been intercepted near Riyadh airport. A large void was detected in the Great Pyramid at Giza, above the 150ft Grand Gallery and of similar size.

In South Korea, President Donald Trump of the United States urged North Korea to ‘come to the table’ to discuss giving up nuclear weapons. Mr Trump also had Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines on his ten-day itinerary. In Japan, Chisako Kakehi, aged 70, was sentenced to death for poisoning a husband and two lovers with cyanide for their money. Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan independence leader, surrendered to police in Brussels who were waving a European Arrest Warrant from Spain alleging rebellion; his return was delayed by legal actions. Paddles, the popular six-toed cat belonging to Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, died in a traffic accident.

Devin Kelley, a former US airman who had escaped from a mental hospital in 2012, shot dead 26 people and wounded 20 in a Baptist church at Sutherland Springs, Texas. Police in Hillsborough, North Carolina, who had arrested a woman for shoplifting, spent $140 of their own money to buy her food when they found she and her child had not eaten for three days.         CSH

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