If one bull in the china shop wasn’t enough for the government, how’s about two?
Speaking on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, the environment secretary Michael Gove blundered his way to a defence of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman currently detained in Iran for spying, saying that ‘there is no reason [she] should be in prison… so far as any of us know’.
The gaffe was another serious breach of security information following the foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s incorrect remarks that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists when she visited Iran on a family holiday in April 2016, leading Tehran to threaten a doubling of her five-year sentence.
Richard Ratcliffe, the prisoner’s husband, has stated that although the affair had dealt a serious blow to his wife’s physical and mental health, which is relayed to him in weekly phone calls, the couple did not believe political recriminations were the answer. “[Her] interests are not served by more instability’, reasoned Mr Ratcliffe, who is due to speak with the foreign secretary in the next few days before Mr Johnson visits Iran later this year.
The episode has become a litany of woe for the government that never need have happened in the first place. Certainly it isn’t how Mr Gove expected his appearance on the Sunday sofas to unfold; the environment secretary has recently reconciled with his onetime arch leadership rival Mr Johnson to launch a high profile intervention in support of harder line in Brexit negotiations, penning an extraordinary memo to the prime minister this weekend. In the memo, the pair speak of their ‘profound worry’ that ‘insufficient energy’ is being used in certain parts of government to fully explore cutting all ties with the EU before submitting to a half-in-half-out deal.
So, with the Brexit withdraw bill due to go before the Commons once again this week, further gaffes by Messrs Gove and Johnson only add to Theresa May’s in-tray. But with the fate of a British family in the offing, and her ability to lead once again in question, something tells me Mrs May will deem this alliance a rather unholy one.
More than 300 are reported to have died with at least 1,650 more injured following a 7.3 magnitude earthquake near the Iran-Iraq border. The earthquake struck 20 miles southwest of Halabja, near the northeastern border with Iran, with tremors reaching the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Rescue operations are currently underway with three days of mourning to be held in the hardest hit province of Kermanshah.
GCHQ is reported to fear that a free anti-virus software provided by Barclays bank to more than 2 million customers may be being used as an intelligence-gathering tool by the Russian government. According to a senior Whitehall official, the British intelligence gatherer suspects Kaspersky Lab, which Barclays has used since 2008, may have been exploited by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or ‘FSB’, successor the the KGB, to target employees of the British government and military.
Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has urged voters in Catalonia to end ‘separatist havoc’ by voting for unionist parties in an upcoming election scheduled for December 21. Speaking at a rally yesterday in his first visit to the region since an unofficial referendum on independence was held on October 1, Rajoy said voters from both sides of the constitutional question would be taking part in a ‘legal election with guarantees’.
Bob Geldof has said he will return his Freedom of the City of Dublin in protest against the Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who also holds the award. Ms Suu Kyi faces heavy criticism for failing to address allegations of military violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, which the UN has called a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
Uber’s license in London may be renewed if it can give guarantees over ‘safety and security’, the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, has said in an interview. Transport for London (TfL) had initially cited the private hire operator’s approach to reporting criminal offences and background checkers for its drivers when its license was revoked in September. Separately, last week Uber also lost a ‘landmark’ tribunal case that compels the company to give employment rights to drivers.
The number of retail store closures in the UK has fallen to its lowest level for seven years, new figures show. According to research by PwC and the Local Data Company, 2,342 shops opened and 2,564 shut across Britain in the first six months of years, with charity chops, shoe shops and women’s clothing stores hardest hit. Strongest growth was seen in the leisure sector as the number of food, drink and entertainment outlets grew by 116 over the period.
The potential float of Cabot Credit Management – the UK’s largest debt collector – could be worth a fraction of its mooted £1 billion valuation, prompting fears of a looming credit market bubble. Investors have warned that equity in Cabot – which collects underperforming consumer debt on mobile bills and credit cards – could actually be worth as little as £100 million given high volatility in the firm’s expected £2.2 billion ‘expected remaining collections’ from consumers who default in the next ten years.
The week ahead
After a trying week for the prime minister, markets will be watching for a more confident tone as Theresa May speaks on foreign policy at the annual Lord Mayor’s banquet in London on Monday. They may be in for disappointment, however, with recent cabinet resignations and the ongoing fallout from Boris Johnson’s remarks about a British-Iranian currently detained in Iran likely to dominate the audience’s attention - if not the content of the prime minister’s speech.
The run-up to full European trade has already seen a sharp fall in the pound following reports over the weekend that a group of Conservative members of parliament have circulated a letter of no-confidence in Theresa May. Sterling was down 0.7 per cent at $1.31, and 0.6 weaker against the euro at £1.12 at the time of publication.
Hoping to deliver better news, both Japan and Germany will post their third-quarter GDP figures on Tuesday with analysts expecting resilient growth. From mid-week, international politics will be in focus as Australia is due to publish results of a postal ballot on legalising same-sex marriage on Wednesday, the latest round of NAFTA talks take place on Friday and a general election in Chile is held on Sunday.
Thursday is the main day for company news with Bouygues and Walmart scheduled to post third-quarter earnings and interim results due at Royal Mail, who recently exited the FTSE 100 amid weakening revenues. Markets will also be looking to UK labour data – and particularly pay inflation figures – due on Wednesday.
Ladbrokes Coral Group
Ultra Electronics Holdings
Datatec Ltd. (DI)
Zoo Digital Group
COLUMNS OF NOTE
Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Times, Kevin Pringle suggests Scottish Labour faces two very different futures depending on the outcome of its latest leadership election next weekend. Whilst under Anas Sarwar, the party might mark out an increasingly independent policy voice north of the border, a win for the Corbynite candidate, Richard Leonard, could mean tacking left of the SNP in upcoming debates on income tax reform.
Nick Clegg comments in the Financial Times on the false hope placed by Brexiteers in the so-called tariff-free ‘Canadian’ model. Instead, as a move towards protectionism, the former leader of the Lib Dems and deputy prime minister argues that the deal would forfeit the Conservative Party’s claim to be the party of open markets, and is only led by by a one-eyed obsession with the Anglosphere.
DID YOU KNOW?
Louis XIX was king of France for just 20 minutes following his own father’s abdication - the shortest ever reign of a monarch. He shares this record with Crown Prince Luís Filipe, who technically became king of Portugal after his father was assassinated, but died 20 minutes later from a wound incurred in the same shooting.
House of Commons
Work and Pensions (including Topical Questions)
Proceedings on legislation relating to Northern Ireland
Bedfordshire police funding – Andrew Selous
House of Lords
Impact of eventual financial settlement with the EU of those EU assets towards which the UK made a financial contribution and which at Brexit will remain part of the EU - Lord Spicer
Impact of increase in the number of penalty points imposed under a fixed-penalty notice issued for drivers caught using a hand-held mobile phone or other similar device - Baroness Pidding
Payment of assessment by dyslexic students for Disabled Students' Allowance - Lord Addington
Ratio of overseas aid expenditure to defence expenditure in the current financial year. - Lord Lee of Trafford
European Union (Approvals) Bill - Committee stage - Committee of the Whole House
Data Protection Bill [HL] - Committee stage (day 3) - Committee of the Whole House - Lord Ashton of Hyde
Government assessment of the risks posed by current levels of household debt in the UK - The Lord Bishop of St Albans
No business scheduled.
House of Commons
Health (including Topical Questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Hospital Car Parking Charges (Abolition) - Robert Halfon
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee stage (day 1) - Committee of the whole House - Mr David Davis
Research and development for the treatment of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma - Ian Murray
House of Lords
Planning for another generation of New Towns - Lord Naseby
UK's foreign policy supporting the needs of UK businesses to create and engage with global trade opportunities - Viscount Waverley
Effect of Brexit on UK food prices over the next five years. - Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
Space Industry Bill [HL] - Report stage - Lord Callanan
Topical Questions (if selected)
Preventing Sexual Offending Involving Children and Young People
Scottish Government Debate
World COPD Day – Emma Harper