The Spectator

Portrait of the Week: Natalie Elphicke defects, wages rise and Switzerland takes Eurovision


The parliamentary Labour party shook itself uneasily after Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, crossed the floor of the Commons and joined it, because she found the Conservatives too left wing. Monty Panesar, the former England cricketer, left George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain a week after being announced as a parliamentary candidate. Some Liberal Democrat party members complained to the Equality and Human Rights Commission about the deselection as a candidate for Sutton and Cheam of David Campanale, an Anglican. The Commons voted by 170 to 169 for MPs arrested for serious sexual or violent offences to be banned from attending parliament. The government bruited plans to stop sex education for under-nines and restrict teaching about gender.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, said in a speech that ‘the next few years will be some of the most dangerous yet most transformational our country has ever known’, so Britain would be safer under the Conservatives. Three people – a Border Force officer, a former Royal Marine and a former Hong Kong policeman – appeared in court charged with ‘foreign interference’ and assisting the intelligence service of Hong Kong. Walid Saadaoui, 36, and Amar Hussein, 50, who had been arrested in Wigan and Bolton, appeared in Westminster magistrates’ court, charged with planning a gun attack against the Jewish community in the north-west. Russia has found vast oil and gas reserves in the Antarctic, much of it in the British Antarctic Territory, with reserves of 511 billion barrels of oil – ten times the North Sea’s entire 50-year output – the Commons Environment Audit Committee heard. Asda announced plans to build 1,500 flats above a supermarket between Park Royal and Harlesden in north-west London.

Real wages rose by about 2 per cent in the year to March. Unemployment in the first quarter of 2024 rose to 1.49 million, from 1.32 million in the previous quarter. Universities would have to cut courses if the government scrapped post-study visas for foreign students, according to a report by the Migration Advisory Committee. A High Court judge in Northern Ireland ruled that much of the UK’s Illegal Migration Act should not apply there because it breaches the Windsor Framework. In the week up to 13 May, 877 people arrived in England in small boats. Dame Shirley Conran, the author of Superwoman (1975), died aged 91.


Russia made an unexpected incursion across the Ukrainian border near Kharkiv, seizing at least nine villages, and claimed it had entered the town of Vovchansk. Fighting continued as Ukrainian forces gave ground. Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, visited Kyiv and told President Volodymyr Zelensky that military aid was ‘on its way’. President Vladimir Putin of Ukraine made his defence minister Sergei Shoigu secretary of the Security Council, replacing him with an economist, Andrey Belousov.

More than 400,000 people had fled Rafah, according to the UN, a week after an Israeli offensive began there. Another 100,000 had fled the Israeli military’s return to Jabalia, in northern Gaza, where Hamas had regrouped. Israel opened the Western Erez crossing point, and 36 flour trucks entered the territory on Sunday. America had suspended the delivery of 1,800 2,000lb bombs and 1,700 500lb bombs, fearing loss of civilian lives in Rafah. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, said that ‘if necessary we will fight with our fingernails’. Two French prison officers were killed in an ambush of a prison van in Normandy and the escape of a criminal, Mohamed Amra. At least 14 people died when an advertising hoarding collapsed in a suburb of Mumbai. The lawyer Michael Cohen gave testimony at a New York court in the trial of his former client Donald Trump. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Archewell Foundation was temporarily listed as ‘delinquent’ by US authorities and banned from operating until a cheque for its registration arrived. The United States closed its embassy in Tanzania because of a loss of internet connection, which also affected Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Christie’s website went offline after a cyber attack interfered with auctions of items valued at £670 million. At the Eurovision Song Contest, the Dutch contestant was disqualified; the Irish contestant, Bambie Thug, a non-binary practising pagan, swore at the European Broadcasting Union; and the winner was Nemo, for Switzerland, who identifies as pansexual.