Good morning and a happy 4th July to our American readers,
As far as swansongs go, Theresa May’s as Prime Minister has been more enthusiastically sung than most.
In the time that we have seen the 13 candidates to replace her whittled down to two, May has instigated a new review on social housing, announced greater support for mental health services, and sought to tackle discrimination of disabled people in the workplace. In the short period since she tearfully announced her departure, the prime minister has initiated more substantive policies than at any other time during her often-thwarted premiership.
Considering her previous insistence that the Union be valued as critically important (a key basis for the now derided Northern Irish backstop), it is perhaps no surprise that May has turned her attention to devolution. With fears over a possible no-deal Brexit giving the SNP sufficient momentum to pursue and win a second independence referendum, May will visit Edinburgh today to announce a new review, chaired by Lord Dunlop, into the workings of devolution. It has been reported that the review will focus on current UK governance structures and whether these are effective enough. This mimics work already conducted by the Scottish Affairs Committee on cooperation between the Scottish and UK governments, as well as work by Holyrood’s Finance & Constitution Committee to examine common frameworks.
The timing of this announcement does feel like it’s been made with an eye on the following day’s Conservative Scottish leadership hustings in Perth. It is also a review of an issue which has flared up repeatedly during the Brexit process. The long dispute that saw the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly refuse to consent to EU exit legislation over fears of a “power grab” was in part due to the lack of an effective system through which concerns could be fed into the UK Government to help inform its thinking.
The sense of doors being bolted long after horses are scattered across the hillside pervades, though. Any changes proposed by Lord Dunlop’s review will be subject to the whims of a new prime minister and the review itself has already been criticised in strong terms by Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who suggested cooperation from the devolved nations will be hard to achieve. Any proposals are also unlikely to shift, at least in the short term, the wider sense created by these disputes, of a UK Government reluctant to include its devolved counterparts in the decisions that matter.
The damage done to devolution during the Brexit process will take a long time to heal and will require more than a single review launched by an outgoing prime minister.
Following the previous day’s nominations for the presidencies of the European Commission and European Central Bank, the European Parliament charged itself with electing its own president. Following two rounds of voting, the candidate from the Socialists & Democrats grouping of MEPs, David-Maria Sassoli securing a mandate after 345 of the 667 MEPs backed his candidacy ahead of three other nominees.
In its latest polling on voting intentions, YouGov revealed Labour has slipped to its lowest level of support in polling history. The party is in fourth place with 18%, though the Conservatives are only six points ahead in first place. One of the main reasons for the continued fall in support has been a drop in the number of Remain voters backing the Labour party, which has fallen from 40% in April to only 25% in this latest poll. (£)
In the latest sign of the growing climate emergency, India has experienced dangerous heat waves on a record scale. The government declared 484 heat waves in the country last year, 23 times the number it declared in 2010. More than 100 people have been killed during these abnormally hot spells, with climate scientists predicting parts of the country will become uninhabitable in a matter of years.
Business & Economy
While the process for selecting the next managing director of the International Monetary Fund will only begin upon Christine Lagarde’s formal resignation, speculation has already begun as to her replacement. One candidate, according to reports, will be former UK chancellor George Osborne, who is expected to highlight his political negotiation skills, claiming they would be crucial in resolving current global trade disputes such as the US and China. Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, is also said to be considering the role. (£)
Ahead of today’s AGM, J Sainsburys published its quarterly trading statement to the end of June. The figures revealed a 1.2% fall in total sales, with every product type seeing a reduction despite recent discounting on more than 1,000 products. The supermarket chain is also still recovering from its rejected merger bid for Asda.
It has been reported that the Department for Transport has extended its arms-length operation of the East Coast mainline until 2025. This extension comes despite the secretary of state for transport, Chris Grayling, previously insisting it would return to private ownership by 2020.
What happened yesterday?
There was continued good news overall on the London stock exchange. The FTSE 100 finished up by 0.66% at 7,609.32, a ten-month high. Among the highlights was takeover speculation of bookmakers Flutter Entertainment driving up its stock value to £68.44. The FTSE 250 followed a similar growth trend, with a 0.7% increase by the end of the day. This was in spite of the pound falling in value against the euro by 0.13%, in part due to further warnings by Mark Carney over the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Meanwhile, American stock exchange brokers will have gone into the 4th July celebrations in a positive mood after the Dow Jones Average and S&P 500 ended the day up 0.9% and 0.8% respectively. The latter’s growth was boosted by takeover talk of the operators of Norton Security, Symantec.
What's happening today?
Columns of Note
Ahead of Theresa May’s final visit to Scotland as prime minister, her former ally and chief of policy Nick Timothy uses his weekly Telegraph column to call for a fully federalised UK. He argues that previous efforts to devolve power had been short-term in outlook and unable to resolve the constant disputes between the UK Government and the devolved legislatures. The failure to extend devolution to England is also criticised, and he calls for a new federal structure, including a new English parliament, to address these issues. (£)
For those who have only recently recovered from either attending Glastonbury or spending the entire weekend watching it through BBC iPlayer, Zadie Smith’s article in The New Yorker will prompt you to return to one particular performance. Recasting Friday’s headline performance by Stormzy in regal and only slightly tongue-in-cheek terminology, she places its significance in the wider context of the experiences of minorities in Britain. From the paying of dues to his musical forebears, to highlighting the use of the “stagecraft of court”, Smith argues it acted as a timely reminder amidst political crisis of “what a leader looks like”.
Did you know?
The National Retail Foundation estimates that $6.7bn will be spent on food for today’s 4th of July celebrations in the United States.
House of Commons
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (including Topical Questions)
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Mel Stride
Select Committee Statement
10th Report of the Transport Committee on local roads funding and maintenance: filling the gap, HC 1486
Debate on a Motion on Ending the Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans - Peter Kyle, Rachel Reeves, Antoinette Sandbach, Lilian Greenwood
General Debate on the Functioning of the Existing Law Relating to Assisted Dying - Nick Boles, Sarah Champion, Norman Lamb
NHS procurement processes and the exclusion of subcontractors - Mr Ivan Lewis
House of Lords
Implementing the recommendations of the independent review into the application of sharia law - Baroness Cox
Home Office discussions with the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse - Lord Campbell-Savours
Cost to the new South Eastern franchise arising from any increase in track access charges proposed by HS1 to the Office of Rail and Road - Lord Berkeley
Ensuring councils have sufficient funding to fulfil their legal duties - Lord Kennedy of Southwark
Protecting the NHS in future trade deals entered into by the UK - Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe
Role of reducing inequality and job insecurity in tackling the prevalence of mental illness - Lord Bird
Apprenticeship Levy and the case for the effective delivery of workplace opportunities for young people - Lord Young of Norwood Green
In recess until Monday 1 September.
House of Commons
No business scheduled.
House of Lords
No business scheduled.
In recess until Monday 1 September.