Welcome to part one of a bumper two part special. Topic: things that we should definitely be talking about but aren’t (because Brexit).
This morning, our first stop is the biggest exercise in democracy the world has ever seen. That’s right, India is heading to the polls and more than 10 per cent of the world’s population are eligible to vote.
Over the next six weeks, voters will choose representatives for the Indian parliament and in turn decide whether to oust the current prime minister, Narendra Modi.
Modi is a contentious character: an ardent nationalist, elected on a wave of promises at a time when anger was growing at corruption and weak growth.
His vision of an India which enjoys a modern, developed economy, while remaining rooted in the “traditional values and social mores of its Hindu majority” captured the electorate. And his subsequent victory with the Bharatiya Janata Party was the first time in 30 years that a single party had won a clear majority. A great triumph – or so you would think.
Many Indians feel Modi has failed to live up to expectations and hasn’t delivered on his string of promises. Though India’s economy is growing quickly (more quickly than China, in fact), it is not sufficient to support the expanding population. Unemployment is ticking upwards at 7.4% and discontent is growing.
In addition, Modi’s decision to remove high denomination banknotes from circulation in 2016 dealt a blow to key employers in India’s large informal economy and disproportionately affected the poorest in society. Consequently, the rural electorate is still reeling from cash shortages.
So, Modi is Marmite and voters are polarised. The election is presidential in style; more a referendum on Modi and his version of nationalism than anything else. Voters are choosing between a political strongman (think Donald Trump) and less divisive, more representative opposition.
I say representative because of a resurgence in regional political parties across the country. The opposition parties – Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal – are hoping to win the election as paty of the Magagathbandhan – or Grand Alliance.
Still, Modi is expected to win, albeit much less emphatically. Voters are stirred by his nationalism and patriotism; but it is likely that he will have to rely on coalition partners who will demand their spoils.
Come back tomorrow for part two of what we should definitely be talking about but probably aren’t (because Brexit).
Divorce laws in England and Wales are to be overhauled to allow for couples to split more quickly and, it is hoped, with less acrimony. Under the current rules, one spouse has to accuse the other of one form or another of indecent behaviour to start proceedings straight away. In the future, they will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. It will also prevent one partner from refusing a divorce if the other wants one.
Theresa May is set to visit Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron today to plead for another Brexit extension. The European leaders are expected to set out the price of a delay: Britain will lose its say in future EU budget talks and trade deals. They also expect that the delay is likely to be much longer than May’s request – possibly to 31 March 2020. Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg had previously called for Britain to be disruptive during a long extension, blocking reforms including Macron’s plans for an EU army. (£)
The teacher at the centre of a row over LGBT lessons has received a death threat and is being advised by police on how he travels to and from school. Andrew Moffat, assistant head teacher at a school in Birmingham, wrote the No Outsiders programme that is used to teach equality and diversity in some schools. But many Muslim parents have protested, calling for the programme, which teaches their children about same-sex relationships, to be scrapped.
Business & Economy
Lloyd’s of London is set to ban anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs from the building. The insurance giant is regarded as the “last bastion of the financial district’s boozy culture”. But a pattern of sexual harassment and generally loutish behaviour was uncovered recently, and Lloyd’s has decided to act.
Mike Ashley’s offer yesterday to inject £150 million of fresh funding into Debenhams in a last-ditch attempt to take control of the business has been rejected. He tabled the rescue bid on the condition that he be made chief executive of the retail chain. Debenhams’ rejection means it is likely to go into administration this week.
According to his lawyer, former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn is being “held hostage” by the Japanese legal system. His lawyer alleges that his arbitrary detention violates his right to a fair trial and his standard of treatment does not meet international norms. A complaint has been filed with the UN.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 ticked up 0.1% yesterday. Meanwhile the Europe-wide Stoxx 600 finished 0.3% lower and Frankfurt’s Xetra Dax 30 fell 0.4% after weaker than expected export data.
Global stocks were on a downward trend following multi-month highs last week as investors anticipate the start of US earnings season later this week.
Boeing shares were down 3.7% in early trading after the firm announced it would cut production of its troubled 737 MAX aircraft by almost 20 per cent.
Brent crude oil reached new highs for 2019, up one per cent at $71.07. Supply is expected to tighten amid a worsening conflict in Libya and demand is set to increase as the US and China continue talks over their trade relationship.
On the currency markets, the pound was up 0.21% against the dollar at $1.31, but down 0.15% against the euro at €1.16.
The City Pub Group
One Media IP Group
Mission Marketing Group
Property Franchise Group
Columns of Note
Writing in The Times, Phillip Aldrick laments the “dereliction of duty” in terms of UK infrastructure. Transport spending has been focused on London – more than twice the spending seen in the north by 2021. Now the government needs to pick other regions for transformative change. Without it, business simply will not come. (£)
Could Theresa May cancel Brexit? Robert Peston unpacks the prime minister’s weird Sunday sofa chat in this week’s Spectator. She offered a binary choice: between some version of her negotiated deal and not leaving at all. He points out that May does not have the power to delay Brexit, but she does have the power to revoke Article 50 altogether. It seems then that cancellation is preferable to a no deal at the end of the week. (£)
Did you know?
According to a study undertaken by the Danish government, you have to use an organic cotton bag 20,000 times before it becomes more environmentally friendly than a typical plastic bag.
House of Commons
HM Treasury (including Topical Questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Tobacco Companies (Transparency) – Bob Blackman
To approve the Burma (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Sir Alan Duncan
To approve the Venezuela (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Sir Alan Duncan
To approve the Iran (Sanctions) (Human Rights) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Sir Alan Duncan
To approve the Republic of Guinea-Bissau (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 – Sir Alan Duncan
Mental health support for young people – Ruth George
House of Lords
Government discussions about the impact of changes to bereavement benefit for parents with dependent children – Lord Polak
Ensuring more pupils study modern languages in primary and secondary schools – Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury
Ensuring the level of government debt falls – Lord Hunt of Wirral
Interference with the rights of protestors following the Court of Appeal judgment in “Ineos Upstream Limited & Others v Persons Unknown & Others” – Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
On recess until 21 April 2019
House of Commons
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts – Louse Haigh
Draft Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 (Consequential Modifications) Order 2019 – David Mundell
50th Anniversary of the Continuous at Sea Deterrent
Revitalisation of the high street in Lowestoft – Peter Aldous
House of Lords
Tackling plastic pollution -Baroness Jenkin of Kennington
Reviewing the access to legal redress and humanitarian protection of children whose parents have been deprived of British citizenship – Baroness Berridge
Ensuring the attraction of the UK as a place to establish and scale businesses based on artificial intelligence, FinTech and distributed ledger technology – Lord Holmes of Richmond
Why newly issued passports do not have the words “European Union” printed on them – Baroness Ludord
Offensive Weapons Bill – Consideration of Commons Amendments – Baroness Williams of Trafford