16 April 2018

@lyle_h_hill

16 April 2018

Good morning,

Book tours for most authors tend to involve a few meet and greets in local bookstores where the writers sign copies of their recent work and make the same joke to each new-comer. And if you are a celebrity who has tried your hand at penning a literary masterpiece, you might even be invited on a TV talkshow for five minutes to promote your work.

Last night in the US, James Comey, the former FBI Director who was abruptly dismissed by Donald Trump, set a new standard in book promotion for his biography, A Higher Loyalty.

During a one hour interview on ABC with former Bill Clinton staffer and now TV anchor George Stephanopolous Comey took aim at the US President. He claimed Trump treated "women like meat" and that he was a "stain" on everyone who worked for him.

In his book, Comey seeks to explore 'ethical leadership' using his experiences as head of the FBI and his dealings with three presidents. He claims two presidents acted as examples of good leadership and the other as a "counterpoint". No prizes for guessing which one. Throughout the book, he even compares Trump to a mafia don.

In the interview, he didn't pull any of these punches, arguing that the president must adhere to the most important value in the United States, truth. He followed that "this president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”

But when pressed on whether he believed Trump should be impeached, Comey was more reticent, claiming he did not support it as it would "let the American people off the hook".

Predictably, this interview prompted a flurry of tweets from the 45th president. Using his trademark style, Trump responded: "Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!"

I wouldn't put a fiver on that just yet but I'd be willing to bet Comey's book will be a bestseller.

News

Theresa May will face MPs in the House of Commons today following her decision to launch air strikes against Syrian chemical weapons bases. Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have all argued that MPs should have been consulted before the strikes took place. Labour has also called for a change in the law making parliamentary approval compulsory.

Meanwhile, in France, Emmanuel Macron took part in a gruelling two and a half hour interview explaining his rationale for the attack on Syria. In the conversation with two of France's most prominent journalists, Macron claimed he convinced Donald Trump to only launch on chemical weapons bases and to not pull US troops from the area.

Ministers are considering giving up to 300,000 people personal allowances of NHS money to organise their own healthcare needs. The policy will be aimed at individuals with mental health problems, and physical and learning disabilities, who will be able to select and pay for treatments they want, as long as a doctor agrees.

Business & Economy

Sir Martin Sorrell, the former chief executive of WPP who quit on Saturday evening, is reportedly free to compete against the company he used to run, as he never signed a non-compete agreement. Sorrell resigned unexpectedly from the company he built into a global advertising force following an internal probe into his personal conduct.

Lord Marland, chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, has said it would be a "dereliction of duty" if Britain failed to boost trade with the Commonwealth following Brexit. He also called for the group of 53 nations to formally commit to free trade by signing an agreement, as this was the only way the group was "going to survive".

Barclays has set up a new venture-capital style business unit named Barclays UK Ventures, run by Ben Davey, formerly the bank’s head of strategy. The unit has a "relatively unfettered mandate” but seeks to find a "truly transformational new business line" that will add billions of pounds of revenue to the business over the next five to seven years.

Markets

The week ahead
The leaders of the Commonwealth countries will meet today and trade is expected to dominate the summit's agenda. The Commonwealth represents 2.4 billion people and includes economies that range from some of the richest in the world to the poorest.

First quarter earnings season for the banks also continues this week, with Bank of America reporting today. It will be followed by Goldman Sachs on Tuesday and Morgan Stanley on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Emmanuel Macron, who has quickly emerged as the go-to pro-EU leader, will speak in front of the “Future of Europe” plenary session. Despite taking a leading role in Europe, and establishing himself as a key broker between Trump and Putin, Macron faces the same problems with trade unions as his predecessors have domestically. How he navigates his differing success between domestic and foreign issues will be intriguing.

Also on Tuesday, China will report its GDP growth for the first quarter as Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump meet at Mar-a-Lago to discuss the trade war with China and Trump's upcoming summit with North Korea.

Later in the week, the UK will release inflation data for March. In February, inflation fell sharply and unexpectedly to 2.7%, below the 3% recorded in January.

Finals
Shanta Gold Ltd

Interims
Avacta Group
Carr's Group
Annual Report
Legal & General Group

International Economic Announcements
(13:30) Retail Sales (US)
(15:00) Business Inventories (US)

Columns of Note

Following in the footsteps of Owen Jones' criticism of Andrew Neil last week, Christopher Booker, writing in The Telegraph, takes aim at BBC journalist Nick Robinson. He argues that the "BBC just keeps getting it wrong" and that Robinson's knowledge of Brexit is not good enough.

Writing in The Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn lays out his case against bombing in Syria, arguing that diplomacy, not bombing, is the way to end the conflict in Syria, and that the bombing conducted by Theresa May was "legally questionable".

Did you know?

James Comey's height has been trending following his interview on ABC. The former FBI Director is 6 foot 7 inches tall.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

House of Commons

Oral Questions
Home Office (including Topical Questions)

Legislation
Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [Lords] - 2nd reading

Adjournment
Effect of cyber-bullying on young people's mental health - Alex Chalk

House of Lords

Oral Questions
Peaceful resolution to conflicts in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Punjab and other territories the north east Indian sub-continent - Lord Ahmed

Use of public alert technology on mobile phones in event of a terrorist incident - Lord Harris of Haringey

Benefit to the UK in participation of world trade - Lord Spicer

EU withdrawal and the implications for business of a short transition -Baroness McIntosh of Pickering

Scottish Parliament

No business scheduled.

TOMORROW

House of Commons

Oral Questions
HM Treasury (including Topical Questions)

Ten Minute Rule Motion
Prisons (Substance Testing) - Bim Afolami

General Debate
Anti-Semitism

Backbench Business
Debate on a motion on redress for victims of banking misconduct and the FCA - Martin Whitfield

House of Lords

Oral Questions
Government consultation with local authorities and others about growth deals for (1) North of Tyne and (2) Borderlands - Lord Beith

Extent to which indigenous gas production is needed for energy security -Baroness Featherstone

Establishing an independent inquiry into Operation Conifer conducted by the Wiltshire Police - Lord Lexden

Legislation
Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [HL] – Report - Baroness Sugg

Scottish Parliament

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee Debate
Air Quality in Scotland Inquiry