Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Facebook’s blackout, California’s oil spill and Rishi’s kitchen sink

9 October 2021

9:00 AM

9 October 2021

9:00 AM


Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said he did not think Britain was in a crisis; he wanted it to move towards ‘a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy’ that was not addicted to cheap foreign labour. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, told the Conservative party conference in Manchester that he had committed £500 million to renew job-support schemes, now that furlough and the £20 a week universal credit bonus had ended. Of the unemployed, he told Sky News: ‘We are throwing literally the kitchen sink at helping them.’ A group of people in the street shouted ‘Tory scum’ at Sir Iain Duncan Smith and hit him with a traffic cone; there were five arrests. Sir John Chilcot, who headed the inquiry into the invasion of Iraq in 2003, died aged 82.

About 200 servicemen and women from the army and RAF were detailed to drive tankers from depots to petrol stations, one in five of which in London and the south-east were dry, according to the Petrol Retailers Association. Only 214,000 new cars were sold in September, the lowest number for more than 20 years. Morrisons supermarket chain was won by the American company Clayton, Dubilier and Rice (advised by Sir Terry Leahy, the former head of Tesco), in a blind auction run by the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers. The BBC’s Panorama and the Guardian became very excited about 12 million documents leaked in the so-called Pandora Papers that, they said, revealed hidden wealth, tax avoidance and, in some cases, money laundering by some of the world’s rich and powerful. Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, said that Britain might invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol because the provision for cross-border trading was ‘not working and needs to change’.

In the seven days up to the beginning of the week, 800 people had died with coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 136,110. (In the previous week deaths had numbered 963.) Numbers remaining in hospital fell for a third week, from 6,905 to 6,556. The Welsh Senedd imposed Covid passports because one member could not get on to Zoom to vote against. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, announced an inquiry into the police career of Wayne Couzens, 48, who was sentenced to a whole-life prison term for the abduction and murder in March of Sarah Everard, aged 33, whom he had purported to arrest for coronavirus offences. Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said: ‘A precious bond of trust has been damaged.’ Sir Tom Winsor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said that it was true that Couzens had been known by the nickname ‘The Rapist’ by some officers.


The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 4,812,842 by the beginning of the week. The United States remained the single country with the most deaths, more than 700,000, but figured only about 20th in terms of death per head of population, with 2,158 per million; the United Kingdom was about 24th with 2,004. Peru, with 5,945, had fared the worst in those terms. India’s Supreme Court approved a government plan to pay £498 in compensation for every death due to Covid-19. Australia is to reopen its international border from November, for vaccinated citizens and their relatives.

An independent inquiry commissioned by the French Catholic Church in 2018 reported that 216,000 children — mostly boys — had been sexually abused by clergy since 1950. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram were offline for six hours round the world. More lava flowed into the sea from the volcano at the Cumbre Vieja in La Palma, in the Canary Islands, where 1,000 houses have been destroyed. Makram Akrout, 42, a French citizen born in Tunisia, won the Paris best baguette award.

Trading in shares in Evergrande, the Chinese property company burdened with debt, was suspended on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan’s air defence zone several days running. West Texas intermediate crude oil reached $78 a barrel after Opec and allied producers decided not to increase output. An oil spill of perhaps 126,000 gallons of heavy crude off Huntington Beach, California, was attributed by some to an anchor snagging on a pipeline. In the United States, demonstrators marched in defence of abortion. In clashes between prisoners in a jail at Guayaquil in Ecuador, 118 prisoners were killed, six of them beheaded. CSH

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