The Spectator

Portrait of the week: air strikes, train strikes and missile strikes


Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton, the Foreign Secretary, said that the ‘red lights on the global dashboard are very much flashing’. He was speaking after Britain joined American air strikes on Houthi positions in Yemen. The Houthis, backed by Iran and allied with Hamas in Gaza, had been attacking merchant ships in the Red Sea. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, told the Commons it was ‘a necessary and a proportionate response to a direct threat to UK vessels’. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, supported Britain’s action, but said that future military interventions – especially sustained ones – should be brought before parliament. Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, announced that 20,000 British service personnel would be deployed in Europe in Nato’s Exercise Steadfast Defender 24. Rishi Sunak returned from a visit to Kyiv, where he announced £2.5 billion of military aid to Ukraine over the coming year.

Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith resigned as two of the five Conservative party deputy chairmen in order to vote, with 58 other Tory rebels, for Sir William Cash’s amendment to the Rwanda Bill. The Daily Telegraph forecast that on the basis of a YouGov poll, the Conservatives would win only 169 seats at the next election, leaving Labour with a majority of around 120. Two million British citizens who have lived overseas for more than 15 years are to be allowed to register to vote. The government committed itself again to building a series of nuclear power stations that could produce enough electricity by 2050 to meet a quarter of demand. Inflation rose from 3.9 to 4 per cent, fuelled by drink, pantomimes and cat food. Aslef, the train drivers’ union, announced strikes between 30 January and 5 February. Annie Nightingale, a DJ on Radio 1 from 1970 to 2023, died, aged 83.

Paul Patterson, the head of Fujitsu for Europe, which supplied a computer system to the Post Office, told the Commons committee investigating the scandal of the prosecution of sub-postmasters: ‘Fujitsu would like to apologise for our part in this appalling miscarriage of justice.’ The Care Quality Commission approved the private Gender Plus Hormone Clinic to prescribe hormones for transgender young people over 16. A report on child sexual exploitation in Rochdale, 2004-13, found that mostly poor, white girls were ‘left at the mercy’ of grooming gangs of men of Pakistani and Afghan heritage for years by the failings of Greater Manchester Police and local authorities. James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, announced that the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir would be proscribed as a terrorist organisation. Five cross-Channel migrants died while trying to embark off Wimereux in cold conditions.


Israel continued to attack what it said were Hamas positions and people in Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said that more than 24,000 people there had been killed since 7 October. Hamas released a video claiming to show the bodies of two dead Israelis who had been held hostage in Gaza; the video showed a woman hostage, speaking under duress, saying that the two men with whom she had been held had been killed – by air strikes, according to Hamas.

After the United States, with token British support, struck 13 sites in Yemen to deter Houthi attacks on shipping, an American merchant ship was hit by a Houthi missile, though with little damage. In a further strike, America destroyed four Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles ready to be launched. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards struck with ballistic missiles what they said was an Israeli ‘spy headquarters’ in Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq; four civilians were reported killed. The Prime Minister of Niger, appointed by its junta, flew to Moscow for talks on economic and military ties. Ukraine’s military said it had shot down a Russian A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft over the Sea of Azov. Lava from an erupting volcano set fire to houses in Grindavik, Iceland.

In the Republicans’ Iowa caucuses, Donald Trump won more than 50 per cent of the vote; Ron DeSantis came a distant second, closely followed by Nikki Haley. Vivek Ramaswamy withdrew from the race. Democrat voting for their own candidates will not be completed until March. Taiwan elected William Lai of the ruling Democratic Progressive party as President; there was no overall majority in parliament. Tens of thousands of people in Copenhagen waved little Danish flags and cried ‘Hurrah’ as Frederik X was proclaimed king. CSH