Fugitive Julian Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy. His hosts soon tired of him.
Pity the long-suffering staff at the Ecuadorian embassy – they have had to endure living with a squatter for seven years, ever since Wikileaks founder Julian Assange holed up there after skipping bail while awaiting extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual assault and rape. Last week, they decided they’d finally had enough and kicked him out, saying he was damaging Ecuador’s international standing by carrying out “innumerable acts of interference in the politics of other states” while staying there, reports Dan Collyns in The Guardian.
A very costly holiday
They had other good reasons for wanting to eject the fugitive. He rode a skateboard and played football inside the small embassy building, and reportedly mistreated and threatened embassy staff – he even came to blows with security workers. Staff were also driven to distraction by their guest’s unspecified problems with hygiene – one that was anyway “very unpleasant” and “attributed to a digestive problem”. Assange’s rudeness and ingratitude toward his adopted country was made all the more galling by the fact that his stay “proved very costly”. Ecuador spent “more than $5.8m on its guest’s security between 2012 and 2018 and nearly $400,000 on his medical costs, food and laundry”.
And it’s not as if Ecuador didn’t go to elaborate lengths to deal with Assange’s concerns. When his bathroom developed a blockage, he was worried “that British intelligence would use the broken bathroom as a pretext to sneak in”, says José Abad Liñán in El País. So, instead of hiring a London plumber, they paid for a former embassy employee, now living in Spain, to fly to London to fix the problem. The pay for this job ended up “just as unusual as the assignment: €4,000”. All this just so that Assange “could once again let the shower water run – something he did to make it more difficult for someone to listen in on his conversations”.
Such indulgences did nothing to prevent Assange from throwing a fit when things didn’t go his own way, says Steven Erlanger and Nicholas Casey in The New York Times. After the government “limited his visitors and required him to clean his bathroom and look after his cat”, Assange promptly sued them “claiming that it was violating his rights”. In a last gasp attempt to “persuade” them to keep hosting him, Wikileaks published a “vast trove of emails, text messages and photos” describing the “extravagant life” of the president and his family. These included material about “lavish dinners, expensive watches and trips around the world” as well as a private picture of President Moreno.
Assange may have blown through enough of Ecuador’s money to have funded “155 council houses, 88 community schools and a health centre”, but he seems to have resources to spare, say Jack Elsom and Gerard Couzens in the Daily Mail. Wikileaks has indicated it will “fork out hundreds of thousands of pounds” in order to help its founder avoid extradition to the US. Still, he will almost certainly have to spend time inside for skipping bail in 2012. Let us hope that his hosts there are somewhat less indulgent.
Tabloid money… this charmless man should save our struggling middle classes
•Good news at last from Brexit Land, says Jan Moir in the Daily Mail – Esther McVey is getting married. Fellow Tory MP and boyfriend Philip Davies finally popped the question. Both are arch-Brexiteers, but don’t see themselves as a Westminster power couple. “We’re not exactly Jay Z and Beyoncé, are we?” she says. Yet McVey “is the living embodiment of the social mobility she likes to champion”. When she moved to London in 1987 from Liverpool, she worked as a waitress and saved up to buy a flat in Shoreditch for £55,000, later purchasing the freehold for £500. But it was her “good looks and effervescent personality” that landed her on telly with Eammon Holmes on GMTV. That’s where she could have stayed, perhaps becoming the “Darling of Merseyside”. “Instead, she chose a more difficult path and remains passionate about her calling.”
• “I normally have little time for the pontifications of the OECD,” says Jeff Prestridge in The Mail on Sunday. But the club of developed nations’ latest report on the failing financial health of Britain’s middle class is “required reading”. Let it be a wake-up call to the “bungling government that it must not forget… its natural supporters”, who aspire to build better futures through hard work and saving. The report warns “the middle class looks increasingly like a boat in rocky waters”, under attack from minimal wage growth, and a “relentless tide of mounting bills”. “Charmless” Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond should cut them some slack and promise no more tax rises or assaults on the tax breaks for those who want to put money away for the future.
• “We all have moments of fantasising about just how much better life would be if we won the lottery and never had to work again,” says Karren Brady in The Sun on Sunday. But be careful what you wish for – all too often the big life changes that ensue are not all for the best. Take Colin and Christine Weir, Britain’s biggest lottery winners, for example. They are the latest lottery casualties after they announced last week that they are divorcing eight years after scooping the £161m Euromillions jackpot. Before the split, they had been married for 38 years. “I guess it’s just another reminder that money really can’t buy happiness. In fact, let’s all take a moment to count our lucky stars that we haven’t won the lottery this week.”