The prime minister shuffled and side-stepped back into the spotlight yesterday as she laid out her offering at the Conservative party conference. Sashaying around the stage to the tune of Abba’s Dancing Queen may be considered risky, but the self-deprecating, personal move was widely praised as humanising the woman referred to as Maybot.
Seemingly unplanned, Vicki Young of the BBC Tweeted that Theresa May’s team “had no idea she was going to dance onto the stage”. After weeks of haranguing from the press and party members alike, it’s good to see the Prime Minister can laugh at herself, unfazed, inexplicably resilient.
Dancing aside, she set out some strong policy promises, declaring an end to austerity and vowing to increase public spending regardless of what Brexit looks like. Tory MPs praised the move, as they seek “a much bolder vision for the UK after it leaves the EU in March”. But with the Budget date fast approaching, Chancellor Philip Hammond has a much more difficult task on his hands, as he tries to free up extra funding while maintaining fragile economic growth.
The prime minister also took the opportunity to make some domestic policy announcements. She promised to freeze fuel duty for the ninth year in a row, adding £800 million to the chancellor’s burden. The cap on local authorities’ borrowing to build new council homes will also be lifted, and new targets for early cancer detection set.
Still, The Guardian reported that current plans see deficit reduction stretching out into the late 2020s, with “significant cuts to many departments pencilled in”. The marked change in rhetoric may have to be substantiated with tax rises and higher borrowing, so the pressure is on Philip Hammond’s budget at the end of this month. Labour entirely rejected May’s promise that austerity will end, with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell claiming that they were about as credible as if “she were to win Strictly”.
Attacks on the Labour party were abundant throughout the speech, as May maintained that the Conservatives should appeal as “a party that is decent, moderate, and patriotic. One that puts national interests first. Delivers on the issues they care about. And is comfortable with modern Britain in all its diversity”, a surefire nod to the anti-semitism row that has plagued Labour.
Notwithstanding inter-party quarrels, cringeworthy dancing and troublesome Boris, it’s reassuring to know that our Prime Minister is in fact a human, with a positive outlook for the future, however distant and costly.
In a statement released by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, he has blamed Russia’s GRU, Moscow’s military intelligence agency, for a series of “reckless and indiscriminate cyber-attacks” over the past three years. It is the first time that attacks have been directly attributed to a state-backed agency, in a move which marks escalation following the novichok poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer, Sergei Skripal, in Salisbury earlier this year. (£)
A second Brit has died following “Brazilian butt lift” surgery, as the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons issued fresh warnings. The surgery was made popular by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and involves injecting fat from one part of the body into the buttocks. But the risks of the procedure – particularly if undertaken abroad – are often overlooked. One in 3,000 people die following the surgery and it is thought that botched operations cost the NHS thousands of pounds.
A British man rescued from a shed in Carlisle was a “slave for 40 years”. The 58 year-old man was found in a garden shed yesterday and it is believed that he had been made to work without pay “on home-improvement projects and laying tarmac driveways”. Apparently, most people in the area were aware that he was working there and he was free to come and go as he liked, but were oblivious to the fact that he was not being paid for his labours. It is thought that the man had learning difficulties. A man, aged 79, has been arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences. (£)
Business & Economy
It emerged today that a senior official at the Financial Conduct Authority “held undisclosed meetings with a Royal Bank of Scotland executive” during a sensitive investigation into the its restructuring unit, which mistreated thousands of small companies. Simone Ferreira, the City regulator’s head of event supervision, had “social drinks” on two occasions with Jon Pain, chief conduct and regulatory affairs officer of RBS. A parliamentary group noted that the “meetings would reinforce perceptions about the incestuous relationship and revolving door between banks and regulators”. (£)
Honda and General Motors are teaming up to develop self-driving cars in a deal worth $2.75 billion. Honda’s investment will focus on Cruise, GM’s unit for autonomous vehicles, just four months after SoftBank’s Vision Fund invested $2.25 billion. The announcement that the Japanese rival was backing GM saw shares increase, as Detroit based car makers seek to catch up with Silicon Valley’s lead in self-driving cars. (£)
New car sales dropped by 20% in September, according to preliminary data from an industry body. This news comes as car makers struggle to adjust to emission standards and Brexit uncertainty takes its toll. Furthermore, the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure came into force in the European Union in September, pulling sales forward and contributing to a backlog.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 ended higher yesterday as worries about the Italian economy receded and the pound dipped ahead of Theresa May’s speech at the Conservative party conference. It closed up 0.6% at 7521.64. Stocks on the rise included ITV, which was up four per cent following the announcement that it had no plans to bid for Big Brother and MasterChef-maker Endemol Shine, following speculation of a deal. Aston Martin didn’t fare as well following its initial public offering with stocks plunging.
The Dow Jones was up 0.55% at 26921.72, having hit a new record earlier in the day. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were also both up 0.5%, as ten of 11 major sectors climbed.
Meanwhile, oil prices were on the up early in the day, with crude oil pushing to a new high at $86 a barrel and brent crude climbing two per cent. However, prices slipped back to $84.55 per barrel following an announcement from a top Saudi exporter that they had increased output.
It was a turbulent day on the currency markets as the Indian rupee hit a record low, while the dollar gained strength, piling pressure on emerging markets. The rupee was down 0.6%, marking a fall of nearly 13% in 2018. The pound fell 0.15% against the dollar at $1.30, but rose slightly against the euro at €1.13.
Strategic Equity Capital
International Economic Announcements
(13.30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13.30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(15.00) Factory Orders (US)
Columns of Interest
Fraser Nelson adds to the conversation about Theresa May’s conference speech, describing her as an “optimistic globalist” in a significant change from the “Brexit Boudicca” that we have come to know. He goes on to discuss the political art of story-telling, captivating audiences with a compelling narrative. This is more important than governing, he claims, and “if Theresa May were to govern as she spoke today, then it would be exciting”. (£)
Jameela Jamil has a compelling approach to a culture of airbrushing, weight-loss and vanity on Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s podcast “Ways to Change the World”. Jameela recounts her personal struggles with body image growing up in the digital age. This is a must-listen for any woman – or indeed any person – with a stake in the sanity of womankind.
Did you know?
For six months a year, the town of Rjukan, Norway, located in a steep mountain valley, receives no direct sunlight. Instead, the town has built giant mirrors on the hillside to direct sunlight down, illuminating the town square.
Source: Atlas Obscura and QI