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Great Britain

Portrait of the week: Farage’s climbdown, Yorkshire’s floods and Australia’s fires

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Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit party, climbed down from his resolution to field 600 candidates in the general election, promising not to contest the 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats said they would spend large sums of taxpayers’ money on things that might please voters (such as the NHS or, from the Lib Dems, a ‘skills wallet’ of £10,000 for every adult). The Conservatives claimed that Labour’s promises would cost £1,200 billion, which Labour denied. A review commissioned by the government into the HS2 railway said it should be built, despite the cost. Asked by the BBC if she could name an occasion on which Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, had supported the use of British forces overseas, Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, replied: ‘No, not off the top of my head.’ Hillary Clinton, the American politician, said on the Today programme how ‘inexplicable and shameful’ it was that the British government had not published a report on alleged Russian interference in British politics. David Gauke, a former Tory cabinet minister, urged people not to vote for the Conservatives. Ian Austin, a Labour MP from 2005 until this year, said that Mr Corbyn was ‘completely unfit to lead our country’, so Labour voters ‘should be voting for Boris Johnson’. Frank Dobson, a Labour MP from 1979 to 2015, died aged 79. Keith Vaz, for 32 years the Labour MP for Leicester East, decided not to stand again.

Hundreds of houses were flooded in Yorkshire, especially along the river Don. Residents of Fishlake, near Doncaster, complained that the Environment Agency had told them there was no need to prepare sandbags as they would not be flooded; but once they were flooded, no help was forthcoming. The Pride of Canterbury P&O ferry turned back 11 miles from Calais to save a migrant trying to swim to England in a wetsuit; a helicopter took him to Calais. Six boats with at least 74 migrants had crossed the Channel in a week.

The Jingye Group, a Chinese conglomerate, bought British Steel for perhaps £50 million and said it would spend £1.2 billion on it in a decade. Britain avoided a recession when its economy grew by 0.3 per cent in the third quarter of the year. Unemployment fell by 23,000 to 1.31 million in the third quarter, but so did the number employed, by 58,000 to 32.75 million. Roula Khalaf, deputy editor of the Financial Times, will take over from Lionel Barber as editor of the newspaper in January. Field Marshal Lord Bramall, chief of the Defence Staff during the Falklands War, died aged 95; his last years were blighted by obviously false accusations by Carl Beech (now in prison) that were pursued by the police.

Abroad

Protests in Hong Kong grew more violent, with a policeman shooting a protester in the body at close range, video of which was live-streamed on Facebook, and protesters building barricades, throwing bricks and setting things on fire. A police spokesman said: ‘Hong Kong’s rule of law has been pushed to the brink of total collapse.’ The number of protesters killed in Iraq since anti-corruption demonstrations began in October rose to at least 319. Evo Morales resigned as President of Bolivia, after weeks of protests over the disputed presidential election result, and fled to Mexico.

Israel killed the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata in a targeted air strike on Gaza; at the same time it struck the house of Akram al-Ajouri, another PIJ commander, in Syria. More than 150 rockets were fired at Israel after the attacks, and Israeli aircraft carried out further air strikes. James Le Mesurier, a former British army officer who was co-founder of the White Helmets civil defence group, was found dead in Istanbul. Bush fires along a front of 600 miles swept across New South Wales, coming within ten miles of Sydney.

In Spain’s fourth general election in four years, the Socialists were left with 120 of the 350 seats (three fewer than before), the Popular party with 88 (up 22), and the right-wing Vox with 52 (up 28). ‘Lady in a Fur Wrap’, a portrait on show at Pollok House in Glasgow thought to have been painted by El Greco, was identified as the work of Alonso Sánchez Coello. A tributary of the Imjin river in South Korea turned red after 47,000 pigs were slaughtered in efforts to stop the spread of African swine fever.           CSH

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