25 July 2019

Scott Reid

25 July 2019

Good morning,

Forget Macmillan’s ‘Night of the Long Knives’.
 
This cabinet reshuffle – nay, wipeout – was a political manoeuvring by new prime minister Boris Johnson of truly Game of Thrones-esque proportions. By my reckoning, the TV show’s famous ‘Red Wedding’ had less of a body count. Or, giving a snippet of what all this might mean, here’s another Hollywood allusion for you: The Purge: Election Year.
 
You couldn’t write this stuff. Eleven cabinet ministers sacked, four having resigned before they got the boot, and only three remaining in the posts they occupied at noon yesterday. All but a handful have been sourced from the Brexit-supporting European Research Group which propelled Johnson to power, with the cabinet Remainer now a species on the verge of extinction.
 
So who features in the new starting line-up for Team Boris? Sajid ‘The Saj’ Javid moves into No 11 as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer; Dominic Raab claims the Foreign Office; and Priti Patel makes a return to government as home secretary (a role I’m told requires fewer air miles). Other notable appointments include the replacement of long-serving Scottish secretary David Mundell by Alister Jack and the entrance of the nation’s most beloved tarantula enthusiast with a penchant for security leaks, Gavin Williamson, as education secretary. Heck, even Jacob Rees-Mogg makes his government debut as leader of the House of the Commons.
 
So it’s farewell to David Cameron’s ‘hug a hoodie’ liberal centrism and adieu to Theresa May’s coalition of Brexit pragmatists. This cabinet is Vote Leave in all but name, with former campaign director Dominic Cummings installed as Johnson’s senior advisor to boot. It shows that the new prime minister – far from extending an olive branch to opponents within his party - intends to stick to his ‘do or die’ commitment to leave the EU by October 31st and is willing to do anything to get there.
 
Still, the cynical political commentator in me (and, really, what else is left in 2019?) is begging the question: what’s he really up to? Given the facts that Brussels doesn’t seem minded to change its offer on the Withdrawal Agreement, and that so many of Johnson’s now-cabinet peers had been opponents of May’s deal, might he just setting up his new crew for a fall when he eventually asks them to back something similar? Better yet for Johnson to call an election, perhaps, making the case that a true Leave government requires a majority to see its will through when it’s thwarted by parliament.
 
Who knows, and quite frankly, who has the energy to care given that the gates of hell seem to have actually opened under central London today amid all this political drama.
 
Och, well. Such a radical cabinet may yet have an upside for those Remain-minded liberals among us who have dared to dream with their choices: a reference to my colleagues, of course, and that I have just won the office sweepstake about predicting ministerial appointments.

News

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to US Congress has defied Democrats and Republicans seeking to draw political capital from his report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Speaking across two congressional hearings of the House Judiciary committee yesterday, special counsel Mueller said that Donald Trump “was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed”. President Trump rejected Mueller’s testimony, claiming that he had been “totally exonerated”; “This was a great day for me.”
 
The governor of Puerto Rico has resigned following mass protests over leaks of a profane WhatsApp conversation. Dubbed “RickyLeaks”, the 880 pages of exchanges between Governor Ricardo Rosselló and 11 senior male political allies contained sexist and homophobic comments. Rosselló has issued a televised statement announcing his intention to stand down on August 2, allowing for a transition.
 
Spanish MPs will today vote on whether to support Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s bid to form a government after coalition talks were aborted yesterday with the left-wing Podemos party. Having failed to secure a super majority in an earlier parliamentary vote last Thursday, Sánchez now requires a simple majority of 176 seats in Congress’s 350-seat parliament, likely via the abstentions of sub-state nationalist parties. If he fails, Spain could face its fourth general election in as many years.

Business & Economy

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has fined Facebook a record $5 billion ruling over privacy policy violation. The FTC ruled that the social media had inappropriately shared personal information of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica in the run-up the 2016 US presidential election. Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook will create an independent privacy committee which removes CEO Mark Zuckerberg from privacy policy decisions.
 
Nissan is expected to announce global job losses of more than 10,000 later today. According to Reuters, the job cuts are speculated as a reaction to deteriorating US performance, and a failure to capitalise on sales expansion in recent years. The cuts will be made over several years and, if confirmed, would equate to around seven per cent of the car maker’s global workforce.
 
Boeing has suggested that it could drop production of the 737 MAX if the aircraft is not given regulatory approval to fly again this year. Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg made the announcement yesterday, whilst also reporting that the aircraft maker had incurred first quarter losses of $2.9 billion as a result of two deadly crashes on the 737 MAX. Muilenburg said that Boeing was working with the Federal Aviation Administration, and hoped regulatory approval could be given by October.

Markets

What happened yesterday? 

Financial markets were uneasy on the entrance of Boris Johnson into Number 10, with the top-flight London index finishing in the red, but with sterling regaining ground. Giving up some earlier gains, the FTSE 100 finished the day down 0.73% at 7,501.46 points, whilst sterling was up on both the dollar by 0.45% at $1.25 and on the euro by 0.54% at €1.12.
 
With analysts cautioning that much of the “Boris factor” is priced in already, some of the movements originated in equity market developments. Miners including Rio Tinto (-4.60%), Anglo American (-3.25%) and BHP (-4.00%) were all down on lower iron ore prices, following an announcement that Brazilian sector peer, Vale, is set to resume operations at its Vargem Grande complex.
 
On the FTSE250, Aston Martin Lagonda (-25.91%) nosedived after cutting its sales and profits forecasts for this year, highlighting wider economic uncertainty in its UK and European markets. On the up was television group ITV (+6.59%), which rallied after posting profits and revenues increases, but a five per cent decline in advertising revenue.
 
Following the close of markets, aircraft maker Boeing posted losses in excess of $3 billion in the April to June period, while social media giant Facebook posted a 28% rise in first-quarter revenues at $16.8 billion.

What's happening today?

Finals
Diageo
Fuller Smith & Turner
Highlands Natural Resources
Ncc
Scholium Group
 
Interims
Acacia Min       
Astrazeneca
Bodycote
Capital & Counties
Goco Group
Howden Joinery          
Inchcape
Lancashire Holdings
Morgan Advanced Materials
National Express
Primary Health
Relx
Tyman
Unilever
Vesuvius
 
Trading Announcements
Aj Bell
Cmc Mkts
Compass Group
Daily Mail
Intermediate Capital
Sage Group

UK Economic Announcements
(11.00) CBI Distributive Trades Surveys

AGMs
Advanced Onco
BlueRock Diamonds
BMO Global Smaller Companies Trust
Caffyns
Cmc Mkts
De La Rue
Edinburgh Investment Trust
Federal Bk S
Firstgroup
Halma
HarbourVest Private Equity
Henderson Alt
Honye Fin.serv.
Immunodiagnostic Systems
Intermediate Capital
NewRiver
Paypoint
Pennon PNN
Polarean Imag.
Record
Tate & Lyle
Telecom Plus
Vp
Weiss Korea Opp
 
Intl. Economic Announcements
(07:00) GFK Consumer Confidence (GER)
(09:00) IFO Business Climate (GER)
(09:00) IFO Expectations (GER)
(09:00) IFO Current Assessment (GER)
(12:45) ECB Interest Rate (EU)
(13:30) Durable Goods Orders (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)

Columns of Note

Times columnist James Marriott looks to a 1985 polemic, Amusing Ourselves to Death, to point out how disruptive social media is becoming in the present day. Although the polemic was written about the harmful influence of television, Marriot suggests that the conclusions of its author, Neil Postman, were more accurate when applied to the likes of Twitter and Facebook. (£)
 
In The New Yorker, Osita Nwanevu looks at the unwavering poker face of special Robert Mueller under the heat of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. Nwanevu points out that shared frustration between Democrats and Republicans with Mueller’s performance has led to the claim that he may in fact be fallible as a legal counsel, revealing a hidden urge in American politics to undermine legal processes where it suits political expediency.

Did you know?

In 2000, Boris Johnson made an appearance at Glastonbury music festival, reciting excerpts from Homer’s Iliad on stage.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY
 
House of Commons
 
Oral questions
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (including Topical Questions)
 
Church Commissioners and the House of Commons Commission and Public Accounts Commission and Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission
 
Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Mel Stride
 
Debate
Matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment
 
Adjournment
Treatment of spinal muscular atrophy - Sir John Hayes
 
House of Lords
 
Oral questions
Introduction of Sharia-compliant student finance - Lord Sharkey
 
Final Judgment and Summary of the Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China, published on 17 June - Lord Collins of Highbury
 
Association of Directors of Adult Social Service Budget Survey 2019 on the state of adult social care - Baroness Wheeler
 
Areas affected by the latest outbreak of Ebola which has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO - The Lord Bishop of St Albans
 
Short debate
Leaking of confidential messages from Sir Kim Darroch and their subsequent publication - Baroness Quin
 
Debate
Needs of women in the criminal justice system - Lord Farmer
 
Availability of NHS dentistry services - Baroness Gardner of Parkes
 
Scottish Parliament
In recess until Monday 1 September.
 
TOMORROW
 
House of Commons
No business scheduled.
 
House of Lords
No business scheduled