Portrait of the week

Portrait of the Week: Allied air strikes on Syria and the Windrush scandal

21 April 2018

9:00 AM

21 April 2018

9:00 AM

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Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, apologised in Parliament for the treatment of immigrants from the Commonwealth from before 1971, known as the ‘Windrush generation’ (after the Empire Windrush, the ship that brought West Indian workers to England in 1948). The 1971 Immigration Act allowed Commonwealth citizens then living in the United Kingdom indefinite leave to remain, but the Home Office kept no records of these. Some had lost their jobs, others had been refused National Health Service treatment, and others threatened with deportation. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, apologised to Caribbean heads of government who were in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. A teenager was stabbed to death in Forest Gate, bringing to 59 the number of murders in London this year. Gillian Ayres, the abstract painter, died aged 88.

Sir Martin Sorrell left WPP, the advertising company that he ran for three decades. Unemployment fell to 1.42 million, at 4.2 per cent, the lowest level since 1975. The pub chain J. D. Wetherspoon left Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Ant McPartlin, the television presenter, was fined £86,000 after pleading guilty to drink-driving. The England netball team achieved a thrilling victory, 52-51, against Australia in the Commonwealth Games. The Queen’s corgi Willow died, aged 14.


Four RAF Tornados, flying from the British base at Akrotiri in Cyprus, launched, from outside Syrian air space, eight Storm Shadow missiles at a former missile base 15 miles west of Homs in Syria. The air strike was part of a joint attack with the United States and France that launched 105 missiles in response to a chemical weapons air attack on 7 April by the Syrian government on Douma, seven miles north-east of central Damascus. Jet fighters flying from France fired nine missiles and three more were launched from French naval ships. No civilian casualties were reported from the allied attack. ‘A perfectly executed strike last night,’ tweeted President Donald Trump of the United States. ‘Mission Accomplished!’ Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, denied chemical weapons had been used in Douma. Russia would not allow the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons access to the site of the chemical attack until 18 April. Syria had taken control of Douma and the surrounding area of Eastern Ghouta after the chemical attack. Tens of thousands of people from the enclave were taken in buses to the rebel-held province of Idlib.

Abroad

After the allied missile strike, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said: ‘This collective action sends a clear message that the international community will not stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons.’ She had informed Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, of the raid the night before. He questioned the legality of the operation and said: ‘I believe Britain should now take a diplomatic lead to negotiate a pause in this abhorrent conflict.’ In a statement to Parliament, Mrs May said: ‘We have not done this because President Trump asked us to but because it was the right thing to do.’ Mr Corbyn said that Parliament should have been recalled and he proposed a War Powers Act to ensure that Parliament voted on any future warlike act. For good measure, Mr Corbyn said he wanted ‘incontrovertible evidence’ before blaming Russia for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury on 4 March. The Department for the Environment announced that the poison had been administered to the Skripals in liquid form.

Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, who is nominated to be the next American Secretary of State, held a secret meeting with Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, in prospect of a meeting with President Trump. Barbara Bush, the wife of President George H. W. Bush and mother of President George W. Bush, died, aged 92. The global shipping industry agreed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases to 50 per cent of the 2008 level by 2050; shipping produces as much of these gases as Germany, the sixth-largest emitter. An outbreak of flesh-eating Buruli ulcers hit the state of Victoria in Australia.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said in a speech to the European Parliament: ‘There seems to be a certain European civil war. There is a fascination with the illiberal, and that is growing all the time.’ Milos Forman, the film director who made One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, died, aged 86. A chick raised by ‘two male vultures in a long-term relationship’ in Amsterdam Royal Zoo was released in Sardinia. CSH

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