Alleluia! As if by divine intervention, a royal baby arrives in the nick of time to save a weary nation from all its troubles. Nothing left to see here, folks. The UK has officially checked out from reality as wall-to-wall news speculation now ensues of what baby Sussex’s name might be.
The Daily Express has been first out the gate by claiming “Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to choose UNUSUAL name for baby that UNIFIES the US and UK”. Short of what I imagine would be the nation’s choice as is customary in times of naming need – Baby McBabyface, naturally – social media has offered up some compelling cultural alternatives. Whilst I’m less sure of the ring to ‘Dr Who / Dre’, a good case could be made for ‘Donald’ given a certain upcoming visit, or indeed, ‘John Barrowman’ as one member of the Scottish press pack put it.
Hours in wasted productivity on our first day back in the office now surely follow.
But as the rest of us catch a welcome break from the daily string of bad news, such is the bad luck of our prime minister that even a royal baby can’t seem to provide the diversionary PR tactic that she needs. Following the loss of more than 1,300 Conservative councillors at the local elections on Thursday, Theresa May is facing fresh calls to resign this morning. She will meet Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the party’s backbencher 1922 committee, later today when she is expected to give “clarity” on the timetable for her departure.
Meanwhile, all does not look well in negotiations between the Conservatives and Labour to find a Brexit compromise before a self-imposed deadline to conclude talks this week. From the Sunday sofas, shadow chancellor John McDonnell sounded as if he was preparing for the talks to break down, claiming that the PM had “blown the confidentiality” of the talks and “jeopardised the negotiations”. It would appear she thinks likewise. According to the Daily Telegraph, Number 10 has carried out “scenario planning” for May’s most-loathed of options – a second referendum – if forced to accept one by MPs.
So the new arrival has at least afforded May some respite from media scrutiny, if not from the rest of Westminster and Whitehall, but I’m dubious about how long this can last. Short of the new baby Sussex’s engagement being announced later in the week, I’d say we’ll be back to reality with a thud soon.
A landmark UN committee report has warned that up to one million species are at threat of extinction as a result of human behaviour. According to the Intergovernmental Scientific Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Systems, more than 40% of amphibians, 33% of coral reefs and over a third of all marine mammals are faced with extinction as a result of shrinking habitat and natural resources, climate change and pollution.
Turkey’s electoral body has been criticised for ruling that local elections in Istanbul should be re-held following an opposition victory in March. The CHP party’s candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, had been confirmed as Istanbul’s mayor in April, leading President Recept Tayyip Erdogan to claim that there were “irregularities and corruption” behind the narrow victory. The vote will now be held on 23 June and has sparked protests across the city.
Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar for their reporting on the Rohingya crisis have been released. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo received presidential amnesty, having spent more than 500 days in prison near Yangon following their conviction under the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years imprisonment in September. The journalists won the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting last month.
Business & Economy
Sky News reports that the new owners of JPIMedia – formerly known as Johnston Press before it was bought last year - are planning an imminent sale of its titles. City insiders suggested that the likeliest outcome of the strategic review would be the sale of the i in one transaction, whilst other titles – including the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post – could be sold together.
Private equity deals in the UK fell by 12% last year as a result of growing Brexit uncertainty, a survey by Invest Europe has suggested. According to the data, investment in UK-based portfolio companies amounted to €16.7 billion in 2018, which – although still Europe’s largest single PE market – was overshadowed by 13% growth in investment across the rest of the continent. (£)
Global markets have responded poorly to a threat by President Trump to increase tariffs on up to $200 billion worth of Chinese goods by 25% from this Friday. In a series of tweets yesterday, the president also warned that a further $325 billion would “shortly” be taxed at the 25% rate. The New York-based S&P 500 and Dow Jones indexes opened down 1.2% and 1.3% respectively, before making up ground later in the day.
The week ahead
While the London market was closed for the May Day bank holiday, the rest of the corporate world was looking ahead to Uber’s IPO on Thursday, which will begin trading by the end of the week. The ride-hailing company is said to be looking to raise up to $10 billion, having been valued at $76 billion in its last private fundraising round, but analysts believe that it could achieve a valuation of up to $100 billion this week.
Elsewhere, we are looking ahead to earnings reports for UK-listed companies including Domino’s Pizza, Direct Line, ITV, Morrisons, Barratt Developments and, most notably, BT. The telecoms operator’s new chief executive, Philip Hansen, will unveil widely-anticipated turnaround plans at full-year results on Thursday, when he is expected to give his take on a halving of BT’s share price over the past three years.
In politics, Labour and the Conservatives will continue what many see as doomed talks to agree a Brexit deal during a “moment of truth” week following poor showings for the parties at last week’s local elections. On Wednesday, South Africans will go to polls where a record 47 parties are competing against the ruling ANC under the leadership of Cyril Ramaphosa. The main opposition grouping, the liberal Democratic Alliance, is polling about 20 per cent, and is not expected to pose a serious threat despite wide disenchantment, particularly among younger voters, with Ramaphosa’s failure to meet promises on tackling corruption and economic renewal.
Faron Pharmaceuticals Oy (DI
African Battery Metals
Apax Global Alpha Limited
British Smaller Companies VCT 2
Gran Tierra Energy Inc. (CDI)
NB Global Floating Rate Income Fund Ltd GBP & USD
Pershing Square Holdings Ltd NPV
The Renewables Infrastructure Group Limited
Domino’s Pizza Group
UK Economic Announcements
(08.30) Halifax House Price Index
Intl. Economic Announcements
(20.00) Consumer Credit (US)
Columns of Note
Rachel Sylvester suggests in The Times that Labour has nothing to gain from bailing out a lame duck prime minister in Brexit discussions, and that both sides are now moving into the blame game. She concludes by predicting that all roads now lead to a second referendum. (£)
Julian Harris writes in City AM that Labour’s plans for a shorter working week might be expedited by solving the UK’s investment and productivity crises. He cites research that shows the UK will be the only advanced economy to retreat on productivity growth during 2019, and that the number of “zombie companies” – underperforming organisations that refuse to fold - is also scarily high at 14% of all businesses.
Did you know?
The German state of Saxony-Anhalt pays retired police dogs a pension of €50/month.
House of Commons
Health and Social Care (including Topical Questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Banking (Consumer and Small Business Protection) - Charlie Elphicke
Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill: 2nd reading
Food poverty in Scotland - Hugh Gaffney
House of Lords
Encouraging local authorities to install more charging points for electric vehicles - Baroness Randerson
Devolution process for Yorkshire - Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate
Proposals to reduce the use of plastics - Lord Dubs
Plans to formally announce a climate emergency in the UK - Lord Bird
Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [HL] – Second reading - Lord Gardiner of Kimble
Orders and regulations
Draft Financial Services (Miscellaneous) (Amendment) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 - Lord Young of Cookham
Public Health England’s target to increase the proportion of known atrial fibrillation patients who are offered and started on appropriate treatment to 89 per cent by 2021 - Lord Black of Brentwood
Topical Questions (if selected)
Stage 3 Proceedings
Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill
Committee on Climate Change: Net Zero The UK’s Contribution to Stopping Global Warming - Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee
Scottish Gigabit Cities
House of Commons
No business scheduled.
House of Lords
Orders and regulations
Scottish Labour Party Debate
Scotland, a Nation of Lifesavers – Miles Briggs