22 November 2018

Tom Gillingham

22 November 2018

Good morning,

Today marks the 300th anniversary of the death of a Bristol man, Edward Teach. Described by contemporaries as a shrewd, calculating leader, he carefully cultivated a fearsome reputation which often allowed him to avoid using force in was undoubtedly a violent age. 

This fearful reputation served him well during his career but, ultimately, left behind a legacy that largely misrepresented his deeds. As a result, not too many people recognise his name, but I would guess most know his alias, Blackbeard, a nom de guerre that lives on centuries later.

We are far from the ‘golden age’ of piracy, but Teach’s early and masterful grasp of reputation management shows how easily perceptions can overtake reality.   

Theresa May attempted to create a reputation for strength and stability during her ill-fated election campaign, and as she sits down with Jean-Claude Junker today to try and drag her becalmed Brexit deal over the line, she could be forgiven for wondering what future generations will make of the decisions she takes. 

Will her unplanned reputation as a resilient survivor ultimately stand as her legacy? Earlier this week (and, indeed, at any number of points in the last few months) we were led to believe her days at the helm were numbered, as the reported letter count rose. However, the actions of mutinous Brexiteers appear to be driving an unexpected reaction outside the Westminster bubble. YouGov polling shows that public support for the prime minister actually increased between Thursday last week and this Tuesday.

Under the harshest of conditions, it seems carefully constructed political reputations are evolving in unexpected ways.

Away from politics, the reputations of some of the world’s biggest carmakers are now under the microscope. We can expect more revelations in the coming days as Carlos Ghosn – the chairman of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi – remains in custody after a serious bout of financial forgetfulness.

His wilful financial manipulation has the potential to spark a corporate crisis that crosses oceans. With their share prices under huge pressure, these companies are in a race against time to avoid lasting damage, and Nissan’s board is meeting this morning to discuss whether or not to dismiss Ghosn. 

While companies and politicians may not be looking 300 years into the future, the importance of protecting reputation – particularly when it is so closely tied to the fortunes of an individual – cannot be underestimated. Historic and present-day examples show that without careful and nimble management, it’s all too easy for something unintentional to become a legacy.


Theresa May will make an emergency dash to Brussels on Saturday in a bid to complete the Brexit negotiations, with divisions starting to appear on the EU side. The Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez has called for renewed assurances on Gibraltar and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has suggested pulling the plug on Sunday’s scheduled leaders’ summit.

Matthew Hedges, a British PhD student jailed for life for allegedly spying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is now at the centre of an escalating international diplomatic row. The verdict has drawn criticism from UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, but UAE prosecutors say he lodged a guilty plea when he was confronted with "compelling" evidence. 

Counterterrorism detectives have been called in after two viable improvised explosive devices were found in an empty flat in northwest London yesterday (£). The block of flats in Harlesden, in the north west of the capital, were evacuated while the improvised explosive devices were made safe, before being taken away for forensic examination.

Business & Economy

Executive pay is back in the news, following the revelation that Denise Coates was paid £265 million by Bet365, the betting firm she founded 17 years ago. Although the company pays significant UK taxes, eyebrows have been raised about the size of the sum and the nature of her business, as renewed research suggests a rise in child gambling.

Royal Mail risks incurring the wrath of its shareholders after the UK postal operator wrote down 85 per cent of the value of two recently-acquired US parcel delivery businesses (£). This action follows a profit warning earlier this year and adds to doubts over Royal Mail’s international expansion. The company paid $103m (£80m) in total for Golden State Overnight, which it acquired in October 2016, and Postal Express, bought in April 2017.

Nationwide Building Society, which is one of Britain’s three biggest mortgage providers, said profits for the first six months of the financial year fell 17 percent, blaming charges for technology investments and asset write-offs. The lender reported that these figures were in line with expectations for its customer-owned society model. Its statutory profit over the period came in at £516 million pounds, down from £628 million last year year ago.


What happened yesterday?

Volatility seems to be the new watchword in international markets. While some tech and energy stocks contributed to a short-lived rally yesterday, there was uncertainty about the sustainability of any long term gains. The primary concern appears to be US-China trade relations and the prospect of the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates.

Despite the UK government announcing higher than expected borrowing in October – a three year high – the FTSE 100 finished the day 1.47% up. In the US, after positive morning trading on both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones, both indexes returned almost flat growth by the end of the day, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

On the currency markets, the pound was down marginally (0.08%) against the dollar at $1.28. It was also down slightly against the euro, wiping out the previous day’s gains by falling 0.19% to €1.12.

Euromoney Institutional Investor
Mitchells & Butlers

Alpha Real Trust Ltd.
Charles Stanley Group
Caledonia Investments
CMC Markets 
First Property Group
John Laing Environmental Assets Group Limited
Keller Group
Mitie Group
Mountview Estates
Severn Trent
TR Property Inv Trust
Majestic Wine

Q3 Results
Bank of Georgia Group
Trading Announcements
Hill & Smith Holdings
Keller Group
QinetiQ Group
Berkeley Energia Limited (DI)
JPMorgan Emerging Markets Inv Trust
Thorpe (F.W.)
URA Holdings

Columns of Note

Writing in the New Statesman, Stephen Bush suggests that a ‘no deal’ Brexit is now almost inevitable, arguing that there is not a majority in parliament to stop Brexit. He also believes that there isn’t a parliamentary majority to do anything truly proactive on the UK’s exit from the EU unless politicians or parties alter their current positions. 

Cas Mudde, the author of ‘Populism: A Very Short Introduction’, explains in The Guardian why she believes populism is the concept that defines our age. She says that increasing dislocation between political elites and working people explains the emergence of populist parties, standing on wildly different platforms, around the world.

Did you know?

A group of frogs is known as an army. 

Parliamentary highlights


House of Commons

Oral questions: Transport (including Topical Questions)

Business Statement: Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Andrea Leadsom

General debate: Armed Forces Covenant

Adjournment: Psychological support after cancer treatment – Mark Tami

House of Lords

Oral questions

How much of the NHS mental health budget goes towards intervention to address domestic and sexual violence and abuse – Baroness Thornton

Enabling humanist marriage ceremonies – Lord Harrison

Reforming the Inquiries Act 2005 to make special provision for the conduct of inquiries into child sexual abuse – Lord Campbell-Savours


Progress made across government departments in integrating the Universal Sustainable Developments Goals into domestic policy in preparation for the UK’s Voluntary National Review presentation at the United Nations in September 2019 – Baroness Suttie

Granting asylum on the grounds of religious persecution in the light of the case of Asia Bibi – Baroness Berridge

Numbers of children displaced from their homes internationally, and the actions undertaken by the Government, the EU and the United Nations to support them – Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale.


House of Commons 

Universal Credit (Application, Advice and Assistance) Bill - 2nd reading - Dr Philippa Whitford

Pension Benefits (Ill Health) Bill - 2nd reading - John Mann

Social Media Service Providers (Civil Liability and Oversight) Bill - 2nd reading - John Mann

Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (England) Bill - 2nd reading - Fiona Bruce

Legalisation of Cannabis (Medicinal Purposes) Bill - 2nd reading - Paul Flynn

Scottish Parliament


General questions

First Minister’s questions

Members’ Business: Arthritis Research UK Survey on Access to Work – Rachael Hamilton

Ministerial Statement: Energy Efficient Scotland

Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Debate: Scotland’s Economic Performance and Economic Data


No meetings scheduled