Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Inflation’s 40-year high, Tory MP’s rape arrest and monkeypox in Britain

21 May 2022

9:00 AM

21 May 2022

9:00 AM

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The annual rate of inflation, impelled by energy costs, rose to 9 per cent, its highest since 1982. Unemployment fell to 1.2 million, 3.7 per cent, its lowest since 1974 and below the number of vacancies of 1.3 million. Britain said it wanted to do something about the Northern Ireland Protocol, but the EU said it couldn’t. The Democratic Unionist party said it would not take part in the power-sharing executive of Northern Ireland unless Britain did. Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, told the Commons that a new law would adjust Northern Ireland’s trading status. Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission, said the EU would ‘respond with all measures at its disposal’. A South American weevil, Listronotus elongatus, was released to counter the spread of American floating pennywort in British waterways.

A Conservative MP was arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault and rape between 2002 and 2009. In an apparent breach of parliamentary privilege, the Tory Whips’ office told him not to enter the parliamentary estate until police investigations had ended. The Ministry of Defence estimated that Russia had lost about a third of its combat troops in Ukraine, killed or wounded. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said: ‘Ukraine is winning because Ukraine is in an existential fight for survival… and it is going to survive.’


In the seven days to 16 May, 986 people died with coronavirus, bringing total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 177,410. In the previous week, 1,512 had died. Numbers with Covid remaining in hospital fell from about 10,000 to about 8,000. Six cases of monkeypox, which kills one in ten, were detected in London and one in north-east England; four of the patients were given to homosexual activity. The Queen visited Paddington station to see the new Elizabeth line, the London Crossrail project, due to open on 24 May.

Abroad

About 260 Ukrainian soldiers, some badly wounded, were taken from the Azovstal steelworks where they had held out for 82 days against the Russian assault, and taken to Russian-controlled territory. Russia said they had surrendered; Ukraine said it was hoped they would be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war. More than 600 soldiers were taken away the following day. Ukraine pushed back Russian forces around its second city, Kharkiv, and its troops were photographed at the Russian border. As Russia’s attacks continued in eastern Ukraine, there were incremental reports of Ukrainian casualties. In the village of Desna, near Chernihiv, eight were killed by Russian missiles; ten civilians were killed by Russian shelling in the city of Severodonetsk. Okhtyrka in the north-eastern Sumy region was shelled from Russia. More than six million had left Ukraine, the UN said, and 6.5 million were displaced inside the country. India banned the export of wheat, the price of which has risen 60 per cent this year.

Both Finland and Sweden formally sought membership of Nato, and their heads of government flew off to see President Joe Biden of the United States. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was ready to veto the application, accusing Sweden of being a ‘hatchery’ for terrorist organisations, a reference to Kurdish exiles. Russia suspended electricity supplies to Finland. Fifteen thousand Nato troops took part in an exercise in Estonia. On Sixty Minutes, a Russian television talk programme, Mikhail Khodarenok, a retired colonel, said that things in Ukraine would get worse for Russia: ‘The situation cannot be considered normal when against us is a coalition of 42 countries.’ Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest, with Britain coming second.

The total in the world reported to have died with Covid reached 6,290,643. ‘A fever whose cause couldn’t be identified spread explosively nationwide from late April,’ the North Korean news agency announced; soon 1.48 million were acknowledged to be suffering from symptoms of Covid. Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, a retired bishop of Hong Kong, was arrested there and accused of breaking China’s national security law, which could land him with life imprisonment. The Iran-backed Shia Muslim Hezbollah movement and its allies lost their majority in parliament after elections in Lebanon. An 18-year-old who calls himself an ‘eco-fascist’ and ‘ethno-nationalist’ was arrested after ten black people were shot dead at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. CSH

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