Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Gas prices soar, cabinet reshuffled and a green light for travel

25 September 2021

9:00 AM

25 September 2021

9:00 AM


To prevent a shortage of meat, which relies on carbon dioxide in its packaging, the government gave millions of taxpayers’ money to an American company to reopen a fertiliser works at Stockton, Co. Durham, that produces the gas as a by-product. The plant had been shut down because of a rise in wholesale gas prices caused by calm weather preventing rival wind-energy production, a fire at an interconnector reducing electricity supplies from France, and Russia putting up the price of its gas exports. Gas-supply companies began to go bust because the government price-cap prevented them from charging as much as they paid for gas. There was clamour for money from the government, either for gas companies or to keep down consumers’ bills next year. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, was in New York trying to persuade foreign countries to use less gas and other fossil fuels. Jimmy Greaves, the great England and Tottenham goal-scorer, died aged 81.

Coronavirus regulations for foreign travel were simplified by the abolition of the amber category for countries; vaccinated travellers from green countries would no longer need a coronavirus test before returning to Britain. In the seven days up to the beginning of the week, 1,003 people had died with coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 135,147. (In the previous week deaths had numbered 983.) Numbers remaining in hospital fell from 8,256 to 7,695. The Crown Prosecution Service authorised charges to be brought against a third man, Denis Sergeev (of the Russian GRU), in connection with the deadly Novichok attack in Salisbury in 2018.

In a shuffle of the cabinet, Gavin Williamson was replaced as education secretary by Nadhim Zahawi, who had been vaccines minister since November. Dominic Raab was replaced as foreign secretary by Liz Truss, who was replaced as international trade secretary by Anne-Marie Trevelyan. Robert Buckland was replaced as justice secretary by Dominic Raab. Robert Jenrick was replaced as communities secretary by Michael Gove, who was replaced as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster by Stephen Barclay. Nadine Dorries replaced Oliver Dowden as culture secretary and he became co-chairman of the Conservative party with Ben Elliot. Princess Beatrice gave birth to a daughter weighing 6lb 2oz, 11th in line to the throne.


A new accord between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, Aukus for short, will give Australia the capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines. France, which had a multi-billion-pound contract to supply submarines to Australia, went bananas, recalling its ambassadors from America and Australia. Its Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said there had been ‘lying, duplicity’. US President Joe Biden in a speech to the UN general assembly said: ‘We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs.’ Mr Biden met Boris Johnson at the White House. America admitted that it was a drone strike in Kabul on 29 August that killed an aid worker and nine members of his family, including seven children, not anyone connected with IS-K terrorism as previously thought. In Yemen, Houthi rebels executed nine men by firing squad.

The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 4,699,210 by the beginning of the week. António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, told its general assembly that the global lack of coronavirus vaccination was ‘a moral indictment of the state of our world. It is an obscenity’. The United States said it would allow fully vaccinated travellers to visit from November. The state of Victoria in Australia shut Melbourne construction sites after protests against a requirement for staff to prove they had received a vaccine dose in order to be admitted to their workplace. The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on La Palma in the Canary Islands, driving 6,000 from their homes and setting fire to scores of houses.

President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party won about two-thirds of the seats in parliament with about 50 per cent of the vote in a general election. A gunman killed six people and wounded 28 at Perm State University in Russia. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party won enough seats in Canada’s election to enable him to begin a third term as prime minister. A swarm of bees killed 63 endangered African penguins on Boulders Beach near Cape Town. CSH

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