Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: An election date is set, al-Baghdadi dies and a row over gay giraffes

2 November 2019

9:00 AM

2 November 2019

9:00 AM


Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, having shelved his Brexit Bill in the face of parliamentary opposition, persuaded the Commons to vote by 438 to 20 for a general election on 12 December. A one-clause Bill was given its third reading after an amendment put by Labour to change the date to 9 December was defeated by 315 to 295. That majority of 20 coincided with the voting power of 10 MPs to whom the Conservative whip had earlier that day been restored, including Alistair Burt, Ed Vaizey and Sir Nicholas Soames, but not Philip Hammond, Sir Oliver Letwin, David Gauke, Dominic Grieve or Kenneth Clarke. The government had failed the day before to secure an election through the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which required the support of two-thirds of MPs. Labour had come to countenance an election after the EU accepted the formal application for a delay to Brexit up to 31 January. There was fierce combat within the People’s Vote campaign, with Roland Rudd, its chairman, announcing that James McGrory, its campaign director, and Tom Baldwin, its head of communications, had been dismissed, only for him to be denounced by Alastair Campbell as ‘a disgrace to the cause’.

The bodies of 31 men and eight women all thought to be from Vietnam were found frozen to death in a lorry at Grays, Essex. A text in Vietnamese from one woman, aged 26, said: ‘I’m sorry Mum. My journey abroad hasn’t succeeded. Mum, I love you so much. I’m dying because I can’t breathe.’ A lorry driver was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter and people trafficking. The London Fire Brigade showed ‘serious shortcomings’ in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, when 72 people died; the condemnation came in a report by Sir Martin Moore-Bick after the first phase of the inquiry he chairs. Five thousand motorcyclists rode from RAF Benson to Abingdon Airfield in Oxfordshire in a 15-mile tribute to PC Andrew Harper, killed on duty in August.

Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay were reported to be putting the Telegraph up for sale. North Wales was cut off by rail from South Wales when floods washed away the line at Pontrilas, Herefordshire. Dawn Butler, the shadow secretary for women and equalities, said in a speech: ‘Ninety per cent of giraffes are gay.’ Lachlan Stuart, Jeremy Corbyn’s senior adviser on domestic policy, disagreed: ‘It is a ludicrous, offensive, homophobic claim.’ England beat New Zealand and South Africa beat Wales to meet in the final of the rugby World Cup.


Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Isis leader, died after setting off an explosive vest when American troops with dogs pursued him and three of his young children into a tunnel at a compound in Idlib province in Syria close to the Turkish border; President Donald Trump of the United States said: ‘He died like a dog, he died like a coward.’ After 25,000 acres of California were burnt by a wildfire that started at John Kincade Road near Geyserville in Sonoma County, California, almost 200,000 people were ordered to leave their homes; thousands more fled another fire near Brentwood, Los Angeles. Power cuts were imposed on more than two million people. A cardigan worn by Kurt Cobain was sold for $334,000.

Saad Hariri announced his resignation as Prime Minister of Lebanon after two weeks of protests. Dozens were killed in more protests in Iraq against bad public services and corruption. President Sebastián Piñera of Chile dismissed his whole cabinet in order to form a new government after demonstrations in which at least 20 died. Thousands protested in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, casting doubt on an electioncount that was interrupted for 24 hours and gave President Evo Morales a fourth consecutive term. Argentina moved to the left with the election of Alberto Fernández as president; Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a former president, becomes vice-president. Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, blamed two quarters of negative growth on continuing demonstrations. The government of the Solomon Islands blocked as unlawful an attempt by a Chinese company to lease the 500-acre Tulagi Island, north of Guadalcanal.

Spain was transfixed by television pictures of the exhumation of Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen and his reburial in the Pardo cemetery in Madrid. In Barcelona about 350,000 demonstrated in favour of independence for Catalonia and 80,000 separately against. A sightless beetle that doesn’t fly was named Nelloptodes gretae in honour of Greta Thunberg. CSH

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