Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: The US midterms, Theresa May’s Brexit plan and London’s murder rate

10 November 2018

9:00 AM

10 November 2018

9:00 AM


Theresa May, the Prime Minister, set off for St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, from which she was to join President Emmanuel Macron to lay wreaths at Thiepval for the centenary of the Armistice. Jeff Fairburn resigned as chief executive of Persimmon, the housing company, after his £75 million bonus attracted public comment. Marks & Spencer reported falling clothing and food sales. The New Look fashion chain increased the number of shops it planned to close from 60 to 85. British Airways passengers on a flight from Orlando, Florida, scheduled to reach London eight hours later, spent 77 hours on the journey, including an opportunity to sleep on the floor at JFK airport in New York.

A plan was leaked of how the government might present a deal on Brexit to Parliament and to the public. Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, pointedly reminded Britain that ‘what the UK government has signed up to is a legally operative backstop that will apply unless and until we have a new agreement to supersede it’. He was responding to a visit to Dublin by Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary, who suggested a backstop arrangement might be dropped after three months. Some British MEPs urged their colleagues in the European Parliament to lobby their governments for an extension of the Brexit deadline under Article 50.

Six men were arrested under the Public Order Act 1986 after a video was posted on social media of a cardboard model of Grenfell Tower being set alight on Guy Fawkes Day at South Norwood, London. On the same night, nearby at Tulse Hill, the fifth person to be murdered in London in six days, and the 117th this year, was stabbed to death. He was 16. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said about the murders: ‘To really make significant progress can take up to 10 years, a generation.’ The National Crime Agency investigated Arron Banks and his Leave.EU campaign after the Electoral Commission said that it suspected Mr Banks was not the ‘true source’ of loans to the campaign but that the money had come ‘from impermissible sources’. The Information Commissioner also criticised Mr Banks’s insurance company for data breaches. Mr Banks responded: ‘Gosh we communicated with our supporters and offered them a 10 per cent Brexit discount after the vote! So what?’ Lord Heywood of Whitehall (Jeremy Heywood), cabinet secretary from 2012 to 2018 and head of the civil service from 2014 to 2018, died aged 56.


In America, President Donald Trump’s Republicans lost control of the 435-member House of Representatives to the Democrats in the midterm election, but strengthened their majority in the 100-seat Senate. ‘Barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight,’ President Trump had told an election campaign rally in Montana, referring to the activity of American troops sent to the Mexican border in prospect of a caravan of migrants from Central America reaching it. Two Muslim women were elected to Congress. America said it was reinstating all its sanctions against Iran removed under the 2015 nuclear agreement. In China, a bus plunged from a bridge into the Yangtse, killing 13, after the driver was engaged in a fist fight with a passenger.

Despite the Supreme Court of Pakistan overturning her conviction for blasphemy, Asia Bibi was kept in prison and the government agreed with protestors to bar her from leaving the country and to allow them to challenge her acquittal legally. The lawyer who represented her fled the country in fear of his life. A runaway 268-wagon iron-ore train was deliberately derailed 75 miles from Port Hedland, Western Australia, after 50 minutes of travelling with no one on board at 70mph.

A UN aid convoy reached about 50,000 civilians, mostly women and children, stranded at Rukban camp in the Syria desert near the border with Jordan, the first aid to the camp since January. The UN said that the Islamic State had left 200 mass graves in Iraq, holding perhaps 12,000 bodies. Seven Coptic Christians were killed in an attack on two buses near a monastery in the Minya province of Egypt, and 19 Islamists accused of the crime were killed by police in a shoot-out, the authorities said. Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of the main Shiite opposition party, in jail since 2015, was given a life sentence after Bahrain’s Court of Appeal found him guilty of spying for Qatar. The French Pacific territory of New Caledonia rejected independence in a referendum by 56.4 per cent to 43.6 per cent.

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