2 April 2019

Katie Stanton

2 April 2019

Good morning,

As a self-certified control freak, I understand the angst that comes with not knowing what other people are thinking.  But while I would enjoy a touch more insight into the thoughts and motivations of those making (annoying) decisions, the Katie school of mind control ends there.

In China, it seems, such restraint does not exist.

A “social credit” system, which sees citizens scored on their trustworthiness, was proposed in 2014 and aims to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.” And that’s according to government documents. Sounds liberating huh?

Everyone starts with 1,000 points: perform a good deed and earn more; behave badly and points are deducted. Spend your days volunteering and donating blood and you’ll reap the rewards; default on your mortgage or break the speed limit and you’ll face the consequences.

Scores are recalculated monthly, and see residents sorted on a scale from AAA (model citizen) to D (entirely untrustworthy). You can look up your score on an app for an update on how you’re faring as a responsible citizen.

And the implications? If your rating is in the green you are rewarded with discounts and free hospital admissions. Unlucky enough to end up in the red and you’ll find yourself on a black list – unable to purchase flights, train tickets or exercise basic rights with ease.

In practice, most Chinese people do not interact with these schemes in day-to-day life – and certainly only very few people ever earn enough credits for a cheap bus ticket – but their ideological foundations are wholly disturbing.

They are widely seen as another Orwellian development in an existing narrative which sees individual autonomy in China under increased control.

Women’s bodies have been monitored by the state for decades in the form of the one-child policy, for example. Now there is a falling birth rate and the state is taking action again.

The “beautiful families” campaign praises women who become the primary carers of children and the elderly after decades of telling women to put off marriage and children in favour of education and careers. Moreover, the state has been offering cash bonuses, wedding subsidies and even miscarriage-prevention leave in an effort to boost the birth rate.

To clarify: coercive policy is now pushing women back toward caregiving roles and away from education. Great. Happily, the Chinese feminist movement is surprisingly healthy and there is an active young network of educated women who are unafraid of speaking out against the government.

So perhaps – now that technology and social media (albeit monitored) can connect disparate groups – a strong civil society is the answer to withstanding the tightening fist of state control in China. 

News

MPs have failed to back any proposal for the next steps in the Brexit process. The Commons voted on four alternatives to Theresa May’s withdrawal deal yesterday, but none gained a majority. May will now hold a crucial cabinet meeting to decide what to do, as pressure mounts before the 12 April to secure a longer extension or leave without a deal.

A second woman has accused Joe Biden of unwanted touching. Amy Lappos told the Hartford Courant on Monday that then-vice president Biden pulled her in to rub noses with her at a 2009 fundraiser. Biden now faces two accusations of unwanted touching as he considers running for the presidency in 2020. He is expected to announce his decision in the coming weeks.

The son of the chief of MI6 has been killed in a car accident on a private estate in Stirlingshire. Sam Younger, 22, an Edinburgh university student with a taste for adventure, was described as a “wonderful son” by his parents. His father is an expert in counterterrorism and was appointed head of the Secret Intelligence Service in 2014. (£)

The US Supreme Court has ruled that a convicted murderer on death row has no right to a “painless death”. Russell Bucklew, who was sentenced to death in Missouri in 1996 for rape and murder, asked for gas rather than lethal injection, citing an unusual medical condition which would cause him excessive pain. The court considered the legal effort to be a stalling tactic. 

Business & Economy

The business, energy and industrial strategy select committee said yesterday that Britain’s largest accounting firms – the Big Four – should be broken up to avoid a string of audit failures that have undermined public confidence in the profession. This would go much further than the regulator’s initial proposals outline in December. (£)  

Troubled fashion retailer Superdry has become embroiled in a “dirty tricks” row hours before investors decide whether to reinstate co-founder Julian Dunkerton to its board. Dunkerton’s lawyers warned Superdry on Sunday against making defamatory statements about him to the company’s shareholders.

US safety authorities will investigate nearly three million Hyundai and Kia vehicles over fires. Incidents involving ‘non-crash fires’ are linked to one death and more than 100 injuries. It raises fresh safety concerns with the South Korean automakers, which have already been subject to scrutiny, and could prompt mass recalls.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Potential for increased clarity on Brexit boded well for the markets yesterday. The FTSE 100 closed up 0.5% as momentum gathered behind a Norway-style Brexit proposal.

Likewise, European indices were higher after China reported data showing factory activity there grew for the first time in four months. Furthermore, signs of rapprochement in the US-China trade dispute boosted miners and base metals as well as other stocks exposed to China such as HSBC and Burberry. The Stoxx 600 rose 1.2% and Frankfurt’s Xetra Dax 30 added 1.4%.

And the improving mood didn’t stop there. Wall Street’s S&P 500 hit a near six-month high, advancing 1.2% after closing its best first quarter since 1998. Financials and industrials were the big winners, while a rise in oil prices bolstered energy stocks.

The pound was down 0.27% against the dollar and 0.16% against the euro at $1.31 and €1.17 respectively. 

Finals

AA

JTC

Minds + Machines Group Limited (DI)

Shield Therapeutics

Urban Exposure

Interims

Applied Graphene Materials

Gattaca

AGMs

Athelney Trust

McColl’s Retail Group

UK Economic Announcements

(09:30) PMI Services

Int. Economic Announcements

(08:30) PMI Composite (GER)

(08:55) PMI Services (GER)

(09:00) PMI Composite (EU)

(09:00) PMI Services (EU)

(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)

(14:45) PMI Composite (US)

(14:45) PMI Services (US)

(15:00) ISM Non-Manufacturing (US)

(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US) 

Columns of Note

Daniel R. DePetris calls on Britain to follow Germany’s example to help end Yemen’s civil war in this week’s Spectator. The devastating war, which sees the Houthi rebellion in control of the Yemeni capital pitted against the nominal government of the south, reached its four-year anniversary last week. During that time, the UK has exported £5.7 billion of arms to the Saudi-led military coalition; Germany has been a passive spectator, offering humanitarian aid rather than weapons. (£)

In The Times today, Hugo Rifkind urges readers not to fall for Mark Zuckerberg’s talk about regulation. While the Facebook giant definitely makes the right noises, his view of privacy is skewed. Writing in the Washington Post over the weekend Zuckerberg said: “lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech and frankly I agree.” His conclusion seems to be that it is their problem, not his. (£)

Did you know?

Koala fingerprints are so similar to human fingerprints that the two have been confused at crime scenes.

Parliamentary highlights 

TODAY
 
House of Commons
Oral questions
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Banknote Diversity - Mrs Helen Grant
 
Motion
First Report from the Committee of Privileges - Andrea Leadsom
 
Consideration of Lords message
Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [Lords]
 
Motion
To approve a Statutory Instrument relating to the draft Geo-Blocking Regulation (Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Greg Clark
 
Adjournment
Reform of business rates - Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
 
House of Lords
Oral questions
Forthcoming review of tobacco harm reduction - Viscount Ridley
 
Encouraging the use of precision agriculture techniques to reduce carbon emissions - Baroness Redfern
 
Reforming entry criteria for joining police forces in England and Wales - Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate
 
Deployment of Russian troops in Venezuela - Lord Lee of Trafford
 
Legislation
Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill - Third reading - Viscount Trenchard
 
Orders and regulations
Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2019 - Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
 
Debate
That this House takes note of the seventieth anniversary of the founding of NATO and its continuing role in the United Kingdom’s defence and security - Earl Howe
 
Scottish Parliament
Topical Questions (if selected)
 
Stage 1 Debate
Climate Change (Emissions Reductions Targets) (Scotland) Bill
 
Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee Debate
Changes to Code of Conduct Rule
 
Committee Announcements
 
Members’ Business
Stalking Awareness Week 2019 – Rona Mackay 

TOMORROW

House of Commons

Oral questions

Wales

Prime Minister’s Question Times

Ten Minute Rule Motion

Animals (Recognition of Sentience) – Kerry McCarthy

Motion

To approve a Statutory Instrument relating to the draft Electronic Communications (Amendment Etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Margot James

To approve a Statutory Instrument relating to the draft Trade in Torture Etc. Goods (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Dr Liam Fox

General debate

50th Anniversary of the Continuous At Sea Deterrent

Adjournment

Extended producer responsibility for packaging – Anna McMorrin 

House of Lords

Oral Questions

Ensuring the public have access to cash throughout the UK – Lord Naseby

Implementing the recommendations of the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights “Immigration Detention” – Baroness Whitaker

Implementing the recommendations of The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship – Lord Harrison

Orders and regulations

Animal Health, Plant Health, Seeds and Seed Potatoes (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Lord Gardiner of Kimble

Electricity Capacity (No. 1) Regulations 2019 – Lord Henley

Flags (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Motion to approve – Lord Duncan of Springbank

Flags (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Motion to regret – Lord Bruce of Bennachie 

Scottish Parliament

Portfolio Questions 

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Debate

Health