Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Bashir’s reckoning, Dominic Cummings’s evidence and ‘secret’ local lockdowns

29 May 2021

9:00 AM

29 May 2021

9:00 AM


The BBC was engulfed in doubts after a report by Lord Dyson blamed Martin Bashir for deceiving the late Diana, Princess of Wales, before interviewing her on television in 1995 — and the BBC for failing to investigate properly. The Duke of Cambridge said: ‘It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.’ He said that had the BBC properly investigated complaints, ‘my mother would have known that she had been deceived’ before her death in 1997. The former chairman of the BBC, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, resigned as chairman of the National Gallery. A gold rosary carried by Mary, Queen of Scots at her execution was stolen by burglars from Arundel Castle.

Public Health England found the Pfizer vaccine is 88 per cent effective against symptomatic illness from the Indian variant of Covid after two doses. But government advice not to travel in or out of Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside was published so quietly that local authorities knew nothing about it for days. After a fuss, updated advice asked people to ‘minimise’, rather than ‘avoid’, travel. By the beginning of the week, 43 per cent of the adult population had received both doses of vaccine; 72 per cent, the first dose. In the seven days to the beginning of the week, 41 people died, bringing the total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for Covid) to 127,716. No. 10 denied that Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, had missed Cobra meetings at the start of the pandemic because he was writing a book on Shakespeare. Friends were asked to save a day in July next year for his wedding to Carrie Symonds.

Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former chief adviser, spent the week tweeting about what he might tell a joint session of the health and the science parliamentary select committees about the handling of the pandemic. A report by Professor Swaran Singh into Islamophobia in the Conservative party found that ‘while the problem is not systemic the party must now act to root it out’. Marks & Spencer, thwarted in sending oven-ready lasagne from England to Northern Ireland, arranged to buy more such goods in the European Union. Max Mosley, active in the global success of Formula 1, died aged 81; he was remembered for winning a libel case against the News of the World when the High Court found that, although he gave orders in German to five prostitutes in a Chelsea basement, the event was not an ‘enactment of Nazi behaviour’.


Belarus used a fighter jet to force a Ryanair plane from Athens, bound for Vilnius, to land at Minsk. Police then took away an opposition journalist, Roman Protasevich, aged 26, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega. Belarusian media said the action was ordered by President Alexander Lukashenko. Mr Protasevich was later put on television looking strange and confessing to the organisation of riots in Minsk last year. The EU asked member states to suspend permits for the Belarusian national carrier Belavia. Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said in the Commons that he believed there was ‘at least the acquiescence of the authorities in Moscow’.

The total in the world recorded to have died with coronavirus reached 3,468,339 by the beginning of the week, an increase of 91,750 from the week before. Hungary had seen more than 3,000 per million die. The United Kingdom, with 1,873 per million, fell back to the 16th worst-affected country, just ahead of the United States. India, with more than 300,000 dead, had as yet only reached a mortality rate of 218 per million. Brazil had lost 450,000 people. Hong Kong possessed two million doses of vaccine that would be useless in three months, but could not persuade residents to be inoculated. In China, 21 runners died during a 60-mile ultra-marathon, when the weather broke.

The United States said it would help rebuild Gaza to support a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups after 11 days of conflict in which 250 people were killed, mostly in Gaza. Colonel Assimi Goïta, who led a coup in Mali last year, led another one. In Italy, 14 people died when a cable car fell on the high slopes of Mottarone, near Lake Maggiore. Måneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest for Italy; Britain’s James Newman received no points whatsoever, from jury or viewers. Plagues of mice overran parts of New South Wales. CSH

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