A news item from the US caught my attention today. Scott Peterson – a security guard on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland during last year’s mass shooting in which 17 people were killed – has beenarrested and faces multiple charges, including child neglect and perjury.
This followed an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), which found that Peterson did not enter the school as gunshots rang out and "did absolutely nothing" to prevent the shooting.
In a statement, FDLE commissioner Rick Swearingen said: "There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
Of course, the argument goes that Peterson – a former sheriff’s deputy – knew what he was signing up for when he took on the job. He was paid to provide security and tackle threats like this one, and a dangerous precedent would be set were he not punished.
But can any of us truly know what we would do if, heaven forbid, we were presented with the scenario that Peterson faced on 14 February last year?
President Trump does, apparently. In the days following the shooting, he stated his belief that he would have entered the school, even if he didn’t have a weapon. Easy to say when you have the most comprehensive security detail in the world.
Peterson’s lawyer has described the assertion that his client’s actions were cowardly as a “gross over-simplification”. In addition, Peterson’s union, the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association, has said it has concerns about the charges and that it does not consider Peterson to be a coward. The trial will establish the facts of the case.
However, it strikes me that by shining this public spotlight on Peterson we are once again diverting attention from the real issue: the unrestricted availability of firearms in the US. That the suspect, a mentally unstable 19-year-old, was able to get his hands on an assault rifle that allowed him to extinguish so many lives with such ease is a disgrace.
If we are going to start charging people with cowardice, what about the politicians who fail to tackle this scourge and prevent murderous acts like that committed at Parkland, whether through fear of the NRA or personal preference? They are the real cowards of this tale as far as I’m concerned.
The Queen will host 15 world leaders, including Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, at a ceremony in Portsmouth commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings later today. The 16 countries represented have agreed a joint statement called the “D-Day proclamation”, which pledges to ensure the “unimaginable horror” of the Second World War is not repeated. This comes ahead of further commemorations taking place in France tomorrow.
The rules for the Conservative Party leadership election have been amended by the 1922 Committee, with the aim of accelerating the contest given the crowded field. Candidates will require the support of eight colleagues before they can stand, 17 MPs – more than five per cent of the parliamentary party – in the first ballot, then 33 in the second ballot to remain in the contest. After that, the 313 Conservative MPs will continue to vote, eliminating one candidate in each round, with the 124,000 party members voting on the remaining two finalists. Candidates have until 10 June to put their name forward and the new leader – and prime minister – will be announced in the week commencing 22 July.
In related news, Tory leadership hopefuls addressed a hustings convened by the One Nation group of MPs yesterday evening, at which frontrunner Boris Johnson warned the party is facing “potential extinction” if it does not deliver Brexit by the 31 October deadline.
President Trump has backtracked on comments regarding the inclusion of the NHS in any UK-US trade deal. At yesterday’s joint press conference with Theresa May, he reiterated remarks made by his UK ambassador Woody Johnson that everything – including the NHS – will be on the table as the two countries look to strike a post-Brexit trade deal. However, in an interview with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain, he didn’t see the NHS as being on the table as “that’s not trade”. Opening up the NHS to US medical companies would be highly controversial and a number of Tory leadership hopefuls have insisted the NHS is not up for discussion in transatlantic trade talks. (£)
Business & Economy
Sir Philip Green has paid a further £25 million into Arcadia’s pension schemeas part of an agreement with The Pensions Regulator that will result in the watchdog offering its support in a crucial vote to restructure the company’s financial liabilities. Green has now committed a total of £385 million in cash and property assets under the deal with the regulator, which he hopes will prevent his retail empire from collapsing into administration.
Star fund manager Neil Woodford has apologised to investors and explained his decision to suspend dealing in his Woodford Equity Income Fund yesterday. In a YouTube video, he said he understood that the difficult decision was “frustrating” for investors, but that it was necessary to protect their interests. Woodford added that the suspension will be used to increase liquidity in the fund and it will re-open “when it is appropriate”.
A judicial review into the way the government raised the retirement age for women will be heard at the High Court today. Campaigners have argued that the increase in the retirement age – from 60 to 65, in line with men – was unfair for those born in the 1950s, because they were not given enough time to make adjustments to cope with years without a state pension.
What happened yesterday?
US equities recorded their biggest one-day gain since January thanks to strong performances from tech stocks. Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon and Apple all ended the day higher – recovering some of the ground lost on Monday following reports that the US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission had agreed to launch antitrust probes.
In addition, there was a promise from Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell that the central bank would “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion” (£) in the event that a trade war negatively impacts the economy.
The S&P 500 rose 2.14% to 2,803.27, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 2.06% to 25,332.18 and the Nasdaq was up 2.65% to 7,528.12.
Europe’s main indices also saw gains due to demand for auto-makers. Continental, BMW and Volkswagen were the top three performers on Germany’s DAX 30.
Here in the UK, the FTSE 100 ended the day up 0.41% to 7,214.29.
Hargreaves Lansdowne was amongst the day’s big losers, down 4.58%, due its strong backing of Woodford Investment Management, which yesterdaysuspended its flagship fund. Just last month, Hargreaves Lansdowne sent an update to its customers about Woodford titled “a step in the right direction”(£), saying: “We retain our conviction in him to deliver excellent long-term performance.”
Woodford’s Patient Capital Trust, which continues to trade on the FTSE 250, ended the session down 7.19%.
At the other end of the spectrum, Standard Life Aberdeen performed well, rising 5.36% due to suggestions that it could benefit from inflows from platforms that will remove Woodford.
On the currency markets, the pound was flat against both the dollar and the euro at $1.2696 and €1.1282.
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Columns of Note
Writing in The Times, Kenny Farquharson looks at the difficulty Ruth Davidson will face if Boris Johnson succeeds in his bid to become Conservative Party leader and prime minister. Having previously been a critic of Johnson – with allies of Davidson reported to have dubbed their campaign to stop him becoming leader ‘Operation Arse’ – she now faces “abject humiliation” by backing down and deploying warmer rhetoric towards him, undermining the reputation as a straight-talker she has fought so hard to build. Farquharson argues Davidson has missed the opportunity to use any Johnson premiership to create a historic realignment of British politics by establishing the Scottish Tories as independent of, but allied to, the UK party. Instead, he says, if Johnson wins, Project Ruth will “have been holed below the waterline”. (£)
Ben Wright, business editor at The Telegraph, suggests Neil Woodford’s troubles offer us insight into the vulnerabilities of the wider global financial system. Wright asserts that, whilst many of Woodford’s problems are unique to him, the liquidity issues are similar to those seen by banks 10 years ago, with the problem simply shifting to fund managers. He suggests there is a danger that the sense of schadenfreude being enjoyed by the media and analysts currently, as the once-mighty fund manager is brought back down to earth, means we ignore the wider implications.
Did you know?
During the US prohibition years, many bootleggers attached cow hoofs to their shoes to trick and evade police who might be following their footprints.
House of Commons
Oral Questions: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office (including Topical Questions)
Prime Minister’s Questions
Ten Minute Rule Motion: Freehold Properties (Management Charges) - Preet Kaur Gill
Backbench Business: General Debate on Invisible Disabilities and Accessibility Change - Martin Whitfield, Ruth Jones
House of Lords
Latest figures for bullying in the NHS - Lord Clark of Windermere
War on Want’s report 'Deadly Investments' - Lord Hylton
Improving the service quality of community rehabilitation companies who deliver probation supervision - The Lord Bishop of Newcastle
Allowing individuals to use accrued pension savings to fund first time home deposits - Lord Kennedy of Southwark
Legislation: Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [HL] - Report stage - Lord Gardiner of Kimble
Harnessing the potential of tidal ranges to generate renewable energy and encouraging private sector investment - Lord Cameron of Dillington
Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heritage Rail 'Engaging the Next Generation: Young People and Heritage Railways' - Lord Faulkner of Worcester
Ministerial Statement: Progress on Delivering a Sustainable Aquaculture Sector
Portfolio Questions: Finance, Economy and Fair Work
Stage 3 Proceedings: South of Scotland Enterprise Bill
House of Commons
International Trade (including Topical Questions)
International Development (including Topical Questions)
Business Statement: Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Mel Stride
General Debate on the Response to the Grenfell Tower Fire - Emma Dent Coad
Debate on a Motion on Mortgage Prisoners and Vulture Funds - Charlie Elphicke, Martin Whitfield
House of Lords
Promoting gender equality in the composition of the House of Lords - Baroness Deech
How much UK aid has been given to Pakistan in the last ten years; and the extent to which this was used to support persecuted minorities in that country - Lord Alton of Liverpool
Plans to review the childcare system - Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top
Recent events in Sudan - Baroness Cox
Government’s plans to support victims of domestic violence and abuse - Baroness Newlove
Latest employment figures and the steps being taken by the Government to increase employment rates - Lord Leigh of Hurley
Short Debate: Treatment of people with learning disabilities and complex needs in in-patient units; and what plans the government have to provide adequate, alternative community support - Baroness Thornton
First Minister's Questions
Portfolio Questions: Rural Economy
Stage 3 Proceedings: Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill