17 June 2019

@TomGillingham

17 June 2019

Good morning,
 
I’d optimistically say we are now living in a dystopian future. From Deepfakes and the climate emergency, to flying cars and Love Island, all the signs are there.
 
There is one thing missing, however. Almost every hellish view of the future has some sort of fight-to-the-death form of mass entertainment. While we don’t have the Hunger Games (yet) we did have the Conservative leadership TV debate last night, which I had hoped might fill that void.
 
Despite the inherently attritional nature of the contest, the sheer number of candidates and the illuminated podiums distracted from what was at stake. Instead of being a visceral dog-eat-dog showdown, it felt more like a slightly soporific episode of the Weakest Link, or perhaps it was Take Me Out - Tory edition. 
 
Sadly for these carefully coached men in suits, the prize isn’t jet-skiing on the ‘Isle of Fernando’s’. Instead, the contest’s ultimate winner will probably be whisked straight off to Brussels for an intimate negotiation mini-break chez Barnier.
 
TV debates are a strange beast, and last night’s was no exception. The number of participants made it a disjointed affair, with coherent lines of argument a rare thing indeed.
 
There were no major gaffes, but it was jarring to see an all-male panel on prime-time TV, and the resulting sense of slightly desperate machismo perhaps best sums up the majority of the participants’ Brexit strategies.
 
I’m still not convinced these debates work effectively in UK political contests. Yes, there have been memorable moments in previous iterations – “I agree with Nick”, Ed Miliband’s “happy warrior”, and Alex Salmond’s alien invasions all stand out for me – but the ability of candidates to dodge the debates, as runaway leader Boris Johnson did last night, too often give them the air of a second-tier talent show.
 
Commentators seem to agree that Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart gave good performances, with Dominic Raab generally getting the thumbs down in this less than gladiatorial clash. Despite everyone’s best efforts, Johnson’s absence was still the biggest talking point of the night.
 
The avoidance strategy seems to make sense if you’ve got a lot to lose by putting yourself under scrutiny and studio lights, which Johnson’s advisers clearly believe he does. It was a tactic adopted by both David Cameron and Theresa May in the past. However, could last night’s empty podium yet deliver ‘no likey, no Blighty’ to Johnson’s leadership ambitions?

News

People in Argentina and Uruguay have had their electricity supply restored after a massive power failure left millions in the dark yesterday. The blackout, which struck early on Sunday morning, was caused by a fault in an electrical grid that serves the two countries.
 
Matt Hancock has given his endorsement to Boris Johnson’s campaign to be prime minister (£). The health secretary dropped out of the race on Friday following a disappointing number of votes from Conservative colleagues, and he caveated his support with a pledge to be a “voice of moderation” if the former mayor of London wins the race.
 
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has claimed there is a lot of intelligence linking Iran to the recent attacks on tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, but he has reiterated his claim that the United States does not want to go to war over the issue.

Business & Economy

Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest lender, is preparing a deep overhaul of its trading operations (£). This will include the creation of a ‘bad bank’ to house or sell assets valued at up to €50bn, after adjusting for risk. The changes come as chief executive Christian Sewing shifts the organisation away from investment banking.
 
Construction firm Kier has announced a new strategy in a stock market update this morning. The primary outcome of this means the company will cut its workforce by 1,200 and axe non-core activities Kier Living, Property, Facilities Management and Environmental Services to help make estimated cost savings of £55m from 2021.
 
The British Chambers of Commerce has predicted that economic growth in the UK will slow to the lowest levels since the financial crisis, as firms run down Brexit stockpiles. The rush to accumulate materials earlier this year boosted the economy, but this temporary bump will be replaced with a slowdown in 2020 and 2021, according to the report.

Markets

The week ahead 
 
This week’s focus is likely to be on the world's main central banks. Policymakers at the Bank of England, Federal Reserve, and Bank of Japan are all due to meet to decide on policy. UK investors will also be watching Tuesday’s televised Conservative leadership debates, to pick up any clues on the likely identity of the next prime minister.
 
Beyond the UK, eyes will also turn to the Strait of Hormuz, following the allegations of targeted attacks on tankers. The UK Government’s Cobra security committee will meet tomorrow, and any further disruption in this highly important shipping lane is likely to have significant impacts on the price of oil. To add to this, Saudi Arabia hopes OPEC will agree to further supply cuts at its meeting next month, with a view to helping balance supply and demand dynamics in the second half.
 
It is also likely disruption will continue in Hong Kong, following days of street protests, which could add further volatility to Asian stocks.

 

What's happening today?

AGMs
Challenger Acquisitions Limited
Fairfx Group
Mobile Tornado Group
Premier Technical Services Group
Starcom
Commercial Property Reit Limited
Zenith Energy LTD.Com Shs NPV (DI)

Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times

Columns of Note

Writing in The Times, Claire Foges backs Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart’s call for a new compulsory citizens’ service for young people (£). Foges acknowledges that it runs counter to some ideas of freedom, but suggests that it could bring the country back together and help young people with the “epidemic of unhappiness.”
 
Boris Johnson is using every trick in the book to boost his leadership chances, according to Andrew Rawnsley. Writing in The Observer, he says the former mayor’s campaign is much slicker this time around and suggests that some of his supporters may even be ‘loaning’ their support to Jeremy Hunt to avoid their man facing Michael Gove in the final two.

Cartoon source: The Times

Did you know? 
The largest living organism on the planet is a honey fungus that spreads across 2.4 miles of the Blue Mountains in Oregon.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

House of Commons

Oral questions
Health and Social Care (including Topical Questions)

Ten Minute Rule Motion
Domestic Energy Efficiency Plan - Sarah Newton

Select committees
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee - Oral Evidence Session on Clean Growth Strategy and International Climate Change Targets
 

House of Lords

TODAY

Oral questions
Introduction of the 10p plastic bag charge in England - Lord Hayward

Oral questions
Government proposals to guarantee support for family carers following the cuts made to local authority and voluntary sector support services - Baroness Pitkeathley

TOMORROW

Oral questions
Reviewing the principles of government outsourcing to the private sector, particularly in regard to justice matters - Lord Wallace of Saltaire

Legislation
Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill [HL] – Report - Lord Young of Cookham


Scottish Parliament

TODAY

No business scheduled

TOMORROW

Portfolio questions
Culture, tourism and external affairs

Ministerial statement
Cycling action plan for Scotland