Voters in Alabama go to the polls today in a special election to elect a new senator to replace Jeff Sessions, who was appointed attorney general in the Trump administration.
The state is about as Republican as they come – part of the so-called “Bible Belt” where socially conservative, evangelical Protestantism plays a strong role in both society and politics. Indeed, Alabama has not elected a Democrat senator since Howell Heflin in 1990, six of the seven congressmen who represent the state in the House of Representatives are Republicans, and it has not opted for a Democrat in a presidential election since 1976.
In normal times, few would bet against the Republican candidate winning the seat with ease. However, we do not live in normal times, and Roy Moore is not a normal Republican candidate, the firebrand having courted controversy throughout his career due to his views.
He was removed as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama in 2003, after refusing a federal court order to remove a marble monument of the ten commandments he had installed in the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building. He was re-elected to the position again in 2013, before being forced to resign in 2017 for directing judges to continue enforcing the state’s ban on equal marriage, even though this had been deemed unconstitutional.
It was at this point that he stated his intention to run for the Senate seat vacated by Sessions – going on to defeat Luther Strange – the candidate endorsed by both the Republican party establishment and President Trump – in the primary.
Since then, skeletons have cascaded out of Moore’s closet. Nine women have come forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct. Several would have been just teenagers at the time of the alleged assaults.
Meanwhile, yesterday, CNN uncovered recordings of Moore saying in 2011 that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would “eliminate many problems” in the way the US government is structured. It’s worth noting that the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 15thAmendment prohibited the federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote based on that person's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude”, and the 19th Amendment extended the right to vote to women.
This has opened the door to the possibility of the Democrat candidate, Doug Jones, winning the seat, with most polls indicating that the race is too close to call.
Why is it significant? Well, it would serve as a benchmark for the 2018 mid-term elections where the Democrats are hoping to retake both houses. And, were the Republicans to lose the seat, they would have 51 senators compared with the Democrats’ 47 – further reducing President Trump’s ability to pursue his agenda. We watch with interest.
The US ambassador to the UK has expressed confidence that President Trump’s working visit to Britain will take place in the new year, despite a spat over his sharing of anti-Muslim videos. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Woody Johnson said the disagreement was “probably misinterpreted” and said Trump’s relationship with the UK was “very, very good”.
The device used in yesterday’s attempted bombing of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City was an “amateur-level” bomb, according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Four people, including the attacker, received non-life threatening injuries in the blast in a busy passageway linking two subways at 7.30am local time. Police believe the device went off prematurely and was likely intended for a busier destination. The incident is being treated as an attempted terror attack inspired by Islamic State.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has launched a three-month consultation into plans for an opt-out system for organ donation in England, and urged families to confront a “fatal reluctance” to talk about the subject. Figures suggest that 80% would be willing to donate their organs when they die, however, only 36% are officially registered, and only half of those on the registry have discussed their wishes with their family. Approximately 6,500 people are currently waiting for a transplant in the UK, with three people dying every day for want of a transplant.
Labour MP Clive Lewis has been cleared of sexual harassment following an internal party investigation. Lewis, the MP for Norwich South and a former frontbencher, had been accused of touching a female party member in an inappropriate manner at Labour’s conference in September.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
A study from the Rand Corporation, a US think tank, has stated that nearly all possible trading relationships between the UK and European Union would be less favourable than the UK staying in the EU. Just one outcome – a comprehensive three-way free trade deal between the UK, US and the EU – would leave the UK better off, but this scenario is considered unlikely. Half of Rand’s funding comes from the US government and it advises the UK government, European Parliament and European Commission on some policy issues.
The board of ExxonMobil has bowed to investor pressure and will introduce enhancements to its reporting to account for the possible impact of climate policies on the business. At Exxon’s annual general meeting in May, investors controlling 62% of shares supported a proposal calling for an annual assessment of the impact of technological change and climate policy on the company’s operations. The decision represents the biggest success to date for investors who have been lobbying for companies to do more to acknowledge the threat they face from climate change and policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Oil and gas prices leapt yesterday after Ineos said it had discovered a crack in the Forties pipeline, which brings 40% of the country’s North Sea oil to shore. There is likely to be several weeks of disruption as repairs are conducted, and the pipe’s closure is understood to have halted production at about 80 British oil and gas fields, as well as some Norwegian fields. Tom Crotty, a director at Ineos, said that “refineries will be making alternative arrangements to bring oil in, by tanker” and that there will be “no impact for the general public” in terms of supply.
The week ahead
The FTSE 100 ended the day up 59.52 points, or 0.80%, at 7,453.48, whilst the FTSE 250 rose 72.08 points, or 0.36% to 20,064.62.
Advertising giant WPP was the biggest riser on the main index, gaining 2.61%, whilst BP added 1.21% and Royal Dutch Shell was up 1.15%.
However, Whitbread, owner of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn, fell 2.65% after its chief executive told The times that the coffee and hotel chains are not yet ready to stand alone. The company had seen its biggest surge in eight years last week on the back of reports that an activist investor would be pushing for the disposal of Costa.
TalkTalk, a constituent of the FTSE 250, slumped to a five-year low after analysts at Jefferies said the broadband provider was heading for a breach of debt covenants. The company’s shares fell 9.84% on the news.
Across the Atlantic, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both posted new record highs. They rose 0.23% to 24,386 and 0.32% to 2,659 respectively. The Nasdaq was also higher by 0.51%.
On the currency markets, the pound fell 0.28% against the dollar to $1.3352, and was down 0.53% against the euro at €1.1319.
Driver Goup, MedicX Fund Ltd., Pressure Technologies, Zytronic
Abzena, Ashtead Group, Begbies Traynor Group, Carpetright, Polar Capital Technology Trust
Artilium, Edinburgh Dragon Trust, GCM Resources, Haydale Graphene Industries, Northamber, CQS New City High Yield Fund Limited, Tristel
Balfour Beatty, Drax Group, Joules Group
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Consumer Price Index
(09:30) Producer Price Index
(09:30) Retail Price Index
International Economic Announcements
(13:30) Producer Price Index
(10:00) Gross domestic Product (EU)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(19:00) Consumer Credit (US)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
Writing in The Telegraph, Lord Hague argues that having negotiated the first stage of a deal to leave the European Union, and a “well-crafted and competently presented” budget, now is the time for a government reshuffle. He says that this would give fresh impetus to non-Brexit related government policy, and it is essential to bring in the party’s future talent. However, he refutes suggestions that he may rejoin the government, saying he has “mentally moved on”.
In The Times, Rachel Sylvester outlines the disconnect on the issue of immigration between Brexit supporting members of the Cabinet and the white working class who voted to leave the EU. She says that the likes of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox are instinctively pro-immigration but wish to see parliamentary approval of the system, whilst many Leave voters want immigration reduced full stop. Sylvester contends that the tacit pact Vote Leave had with Nigel Farage is something the Tory Brexiteers will come to regret.
DID YOU KNOW?
Colin Firth’s character in ‘Love Actually’ was only called Jamie because of the part towards the end of the film where the kids say, “I hate Uncle Jamie”. It was a private joke that Richard Curtis, the director, included in the film because his brother is called Jamie.
House of Commons
Oral Questions: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (including Topical Questions)
Legislation: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 6) - Committee of the whole House - Mr David Davis
House of Lords
Number of doctors from European Economic Area states working in the UK who may be planning to leave the NHS after the UK withdrawal from the EU - Baroness Walmsley
Ensuring the £8.4 billion of European Structural Investment Funds allocated to local government for the 2014–20 period is made available for the support of businesses and infrastructure improvements and that an equivalent value of funding is available for the period after 2020 - Baroness Pinnock
Impact of increases in train fares to be introduced in January 2018 - Baroness Randerson
Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] - Committee stage (day 4) - Committee of the Whole House - Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Scottish Government Debate: Celebrating our Future - Scotland’s Year of Young People
House of Commons
Oral Questions: Wales
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Legislation: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 7) - Committee of the whole House - Mr David Davis
House of Lords
Non-Commonwealth member countries attending the 2018 Commonwealth Summit in London - Lord Chidgey
Progress towards establishing a single national standard for household recycling - Baroness Neville-Rolfe
Number and percentage of students who will pay back their student loans in full - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
Legislation: Data Protection Bill [HL] - Report stage (day 2) - Lord Ashton of Hyde
Finance and the Constitution
Economy, Jobs and Fair Work
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Finance