Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Queen stays home, Boris rubbishes recycling and pay freeze thaws

30 October 2021

9:00 AM

30 October 2021

9:00 AM

Home

The Queen will not attend the COP26 meeting in Glasgow next week; she had resumed light duties after having spent a night in hospital for ‘preliminary medical checks’. The Queen would address COP26 by means of a recorded video. ‘The recycling thing is a red herring,’ Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, told a press conference attended by schoolchildren. ‘You can only recycle plastic a couple of times, really. What you’ve got to do is stop the production of plastic.’ The protestors calling themselves Insulate Britain blocked main roads into London and approaches to the M25. Amazon Web Services was awarded a contract to provide a high-security cloud system for GCHQ, MI5 and MI6. The government took over administration of Slough, which had spent £54 million on a council headquarters where the wifi did not work properly. Ikea is buying the large Oxford Street store that belonged to Topshop for £378 million.

The freeze in salary progression for public sector workers, imposed last November, was lifted by Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget. He said the UK economy was recovering from the pandemic ‘more strongly than rivals’. The national living wage would rise from £8.91 per hour to £9.50, from April. The universal credit taper rate will be adjusted so that workers can keep more of their income. England’s city regions will receive £6.9 billion to spend on train, tram, bus and cycle projects. Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, called it ‘an important first step towards a London-style public transport system for Greater Manchester’. Some £1.8 billion was earmarked for building 160,000 houses on brownfield sites in England. NHS England would get £5.9 billion to deal with the backlog of people waiting for tests. The fuel duty levy was frozen for the 12th year.  Sums were allocated for the restoration of the V&A, more patrol boats, tennis courts and research into the treatment of amputees. At the same time, the Treasury asked departments to identify ‘at least 5 per cent of savings and efficiencies from their day-to-day budgets’.


In the seven days up to the beginning of this week, 934 people had died with coronavirus, bringing the total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 139,461. (In the previous week deaths had numbered 830.) Numbers remaining in hospital rose to more than 8,000, as they had been in September. The Commons authorities obliged everyone working there to wear a face covering, except for MPs, who are not employees.

Abroad

The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 4,959,654 by the beginning of the week. America revoked the US licence of China Telecom, one of China’s biggest telecoms companies, citing ‘national security’ concerns. Amnesty International is to shut its offices in Hong Kong because the national security law recently imposed by China made it ‘effectively impossible’ to operate. At least two were killed as floods swept through the Sicilian city of Catania. Lava continued to flow from the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands, which erupted on 19 September; hundreds of houses were destroyed.

Tesla made an agreement to sell 100,000 vehicles to the car rental firm Hertz, boosting its share value to more than $1 trillion. Colombia’s most wanted drug trafficker, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, known as Otoniel, was arrested and will be extradited to America. A pair of trainers worn by the US basketball star Michael Jordan during his first season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984 went for $1.47 million at auction. Alec Baldwin, the actor, was rehearsing drawing a gun when it fired and killed the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded the director Joel Souza.

Sudan suffered its 18th military coup since 1952. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman suggested to his cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in 2014 that the late King Abdullah could be killed with a poison ring; the allegation was made in an interview with CBS by Saad al-Jabri, a former top Saudi intelligence official: ‘He told him “I want to assassinate King Abdullah. I get a poison ring from Russia. It’s enough for me just to shake hand with him.”’ The Russian navy foiled an attempt by pirates to hijack a Panama-registered container ship off West Africa. Scythian gold objects borrowed from four museums in the Crimea and put on display in Amsterdam in 2014 must be returned to Ukraine, a Dutch court ruled. CSH

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