Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Tory conference, John Lewis cuts jobs and Duchess of Sussex sues

5 October 2019

9:00 AM

5 October 2019

9:00 AM


Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, presented the EU with a proposed withdrawal agreement. It entailed Northern Ireland remaining for a large part in the EU single market, along with Ireland, until January 2025, with the European Court retaining jurisdiction during that time. After that, the Northern Ireland Assembly would be able to choose whether to remain in the single market. In the meantime, there would be a border with Great Britain in the Irish Sea and, with none of the United Kingdom in the customs union, another, invisible border with Ireland, with checks made away from the border on goods in transit. Dominic Cummings said: ‘If they reject our offer, that’s it.’ Eighteen Scottish pine martens were released in the Forest of Dean.

Parliament refused to allow a recess for the Conservative party conference. It went ahead, in Manchester, with Sajid Javid, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, saying that the minimum wage would rise to £10.50 by 2024, from £8.21 now. Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, said that automatic release of violent or sexual offenders halfway through their sentences would be replaced by a requirement to serve two-thirds. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, announced a new team in the British Transport Police to tackle ‘county lines’ drug gangs. About 726 homeless people (sleeping rough or using shelters and hostels) died in 2018, a rise of 22 per cent from 2017; of an estimated 294 deaths related to drugs, 99 cases involved heroin or morphine. The John Lewis Partnership set out to save £100 million a year by cutting 75 senior management jobs out of 225, as it merged operations with Waitrose. Dave Lewis resigned after five years as chief executive of Tesco.

House prices in September stood at only 0.2 per cent higher than a year before, the Nationwide said. A woman journalist wrote that Boris Johnson had squeezed her thigh at a Spectator lunch in 1999; he denied it. The BBC reversed its decision to uphold part of a complaint against the news presenter Naga Munchetty for breaching guidelines by criticising Donald Trump’s motives in having said that four woman politicians should ‘go back’ to ‘places from which they came’. The Duchess of Sussex sued the Mail on Sunday over a claim that it unlawfully published one of her private letters; the Duke of Sussex said: ‘I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.’  Fifa told Cardiff City to pay the first instalment of six million euros (£5.3 million) to Nantes for the £15 million striker Emiliano Sala, who died in an air crash on his way to joining the club.


In Hong Kong, police shot a demonstrator in the chest as thousands protested while China celebrated the 70th anniversary of its communist rule. About 2,000 people were arrested after scattered anti-government protests in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. Russia’s consumption of alcohol has fallen by 43 per cent since 2003, the World Health Organisation said, with the life expectancy for males rising from 57 in the 1990s to 68 today. In the women’s marathon during the World Athletics Championships at Doha, the capital of Qatar, run at midnight but in great heat, 28 of the 68 women dropped out.

Alberto Salazar, the coach with whom the runner Mo Farah trained for seven years, was banned from athletics for four years after being found guilty of doping violations. Dutch farmers blocked roads with tractors, causing 700 miles of traffic jams in protest against being blamed for causing nitrogen emissions. Jessye Norman, the American opera singer, died aged 74. The presidential elections in Afghanistan attracted a turnout of only 25 per cent, amid worriers about safety.

The conservative People’s Party, led by Sebastian Kurz, won the Austrian elections with 37 per cent of the vote, beating the Social Democrats into second place with 21 per cent, and the far-right Freedom party falling to 16 per cent. A deadline for Jews living outside Spain to request Spanish nationality passed with 127,000 applications, 20,000 of them from Mexico. Jacques Chirac, the president of France from 1995 to 2007, died aged 86. British flagged tanker the Stena Impero, seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz on 19 July, was released with its 16 Indian, Russian and Filipino crew. A 632 sq mile iceberg (almost the size of Skye) weighing 315 billion tons broke away from the Amery ice shelf in Antarctica, the biggest from that origin since the 1960s.   CSH

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