8 April 2019

Tom Gillingham

8 April 2019

Good morning,

We are finally reaching the end-game. Two years of waiting are nearly over, and the final battles are almost upon us.

I am, of course, referring to the return of HBO’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones to British TV screens this time next week.

The return of the show probably can’t come quickly enough for executives at Sky Atlantic - the channel that broadcasts the show in the UK - as another purveyor of internecine political struggles has been quietly eating into their audience. In the week commencing 11 March, BBC Parliament pulled in an average of 488,000 daily viewers. Sky Atlantic? Only 421,000.

BBC Parliament has clearly benefitted from a combination of stand-out specials, arcane ritual and its cast of Commons characters. Audiences have been drawn in by career-defining performances from loquacious legal foghorn Geoffrey Cox; from order superfan John Bercow; and, of course, from still-in-need-of-a-Strepsil Theresa May.

While some of these characters are just about plausible, the chamber format feels a little tired. Even attempts to introduce nudity last week can’t distract from the fact that votes take too long and there’s clearly not enough space between the benches for a proper dance/bake/sing off to give defeated motions a second chance. And don’t even think about suggesting a public vote to spice things up.

Despite BBC Parliament’s plucky performance, there is little doubt which channel will win this particular ratings war next week. After all, a lavishly produced fantasy chronicling endless struggles for a thankless throne will always trump a bare-bones stream chronicling real-life struggles for a thankless throne.

The biggest irony of it all is the majority of the British public don’t actually appear to care about either. Watching politics and Game of Thrones ‘live’ are still both relatively niche interests, despite the level of online hype. The average person spends a total of just three minutesper weekwatching either channel.

Lucky them.

News

The government says websites could be blocked or fined if they fail to tackle online harms like terrorist propaganda and child abuse. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has put forward plans for an independent watchdog and a code of practice for tech companies to follow.
 
Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to meet Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn again today to try to break the deadlock over Brexit (£). Boris Johnson has described rumours that she will propose an indefinite customs union as a ‘surrender’.
 
The US has called for an immediate halt to military operations in Libya as the Libyan National Army (LNA) advances on the capital, Tripoli. The UN-backed Government of National Accord controls Tripoli, while the LNA is allied to a parallel administration based in the east of the oil-rich country, which formed after the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Business & Economy

Saudi Aramco’s impending $10bn international bond issue has already drawn $30bn of demand from investors (£). The debut has compelled investors to put aside concerns over the company’s close links to the country’s repressive government to back the world’s most profitable company.
 
Mike Ashley has submitted a new offer for troubled high street chain Debenhams. As he awaits a response, his company Sports Direct issued a strongly-worded statement on Sunday evening. It accused Debenhams' board members of misrepresenting what had happened in a meeting between the two firms and suggested they should submit to a lie detector test.
 
Oil has hit a five-month high, representing its best week in almost two months. The increase was driven by escalating fighting in OPEC producer Libya, and came despite the biggest increase active rigs in the US since May.

Markets

The week ahead

With German ecomomic indicators weakening, many eyes will be on the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting on Wednesday. ECB President Mario Draghi may face some tough questions at the news conference after the meeting, even though no major policy changes are expected.
 
Elsewhere, US-Chinese trade talks continue to loom large over international markets, and investors will be looking for further signs of progress this week after some indications of optimism from President Trump and President Xi Jinping in the last few days.
 
In the UK, Brexit unsurprisingly dominates the agenda for the week ahead, with talks continuing between the Conservative government and the Labour opposition. Any move towards a softer Brexit option could boost the pound, but volatility is expected to remain due to the last-minute nature of the negotiations and the looming no-deal deadline.

Finally, it’s worth keeping an eye on the oil price this week as fighting looks set to continue in OPEC-producer, Libya.

Finals
Keywords Studios
Northbridge Industrial Services

AGMs 
Centamin (DI)

International Economic Announcements 
(07:00) Balance of Trade (GER)
(07:00) Current Account (GER)
(15:00) Factory Orders (US)

Columns of Note

Writing in the Guardian, Matthew D’Ancona suggests that politicians need to put the country before their parties when it comes to the next stage of Brexit decisions. He believes party-focused elections should matter much less than the future of the UK.
 
Writing in the Spectator, Robert Peston has joyful news for us all. He warns that the Brexit headache is “just beginning” and that any outcome is likely to lead to different combinations of acute strife in politics, economy, society.

Did you know?

Rats multiply so quickly that in 18 months, two rats could have over one million descendants.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY
 
House of Commons 
 
Oral questions
Housing, Communities and Local Government (including Topical Questions)
 
House of Lords 
 
Oral questions
Reducing air pollution - Baroness Kennedy of Cradley
 
Oral questions
Reducing business rates on retailers with physical premises so that they are charged less than those which trade online - Baroness Neville-Rolfe
 
Legislation
European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill - Committee stage, Report stage and Third reading
 
Scottish Parliament
No business scheduled
 
TOMORROW
 
House of Commons 
 
Oral questions
HM Treasury (including Topical Questions)
 
General debate
Housing
 
House of Lords 
 
Orders and regulations
Electronic Communications (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Lord Ashton of Hyde
           
Orders and regulations
Food Additives, Flavourings, Enzymes and Extraction Solvents (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford
 
Scottish Parliament 
No business scheduled