It was the cabinet re-shuffle that… well, kinda wasn’t.
In a day intended to refresh confidence in the Tory party through the promotion of BME newcomers and women to the top table, the final result of Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle yesterday may have left onlookers slightly underwhelmed. Despite the media frenzy, the ‘Big Four’ secretaries were all in place and we’d had only one new Cabinet introduction and a name change by mid-afternoon.
There were some significant moves: the education secretary Justice Greening quit the government despite being offered a brief in DWP and is replaced by Damian Hinds; Brandon Lewis becomes chairman of the Conservative Party with James Cleverly as his deputy; Justice minister David Lidington takes over the Cabinet Office brief and James Brokenshire resigned as Northern Ireland secretary for health reasons, vacating for Karen Bradley.
And what’s in a name? Reportedly refusing to budge to the business brief after a 2-hour tango in Downing St, Jeremy Hunt takes on the enhanced post of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, as does Sajid Javid who adds housing to his portfolio.
The day was also marked by lengthy proceedings and political gaffes. We knew we were off to a ropey start when the Conservative Party Twitter account mistakenly announced Transport secretary Chris Grayling as its new chairman before the tweet was deleted 30 seconds later. #DayOfTheBluntKnives promptly started trending.
Taking into account the unexpected resignations and that the much-hyped changes failed to materialise, the overall impression is one of fiddling around the edges whilst big questions remain over the government’s overall strategy. Today may offer the prime minister a reprieve as the reshuffle continues with the speculated introduction of several MPs from the 2015 and 2017 intake.
Will this signal a government that means business? Or perhaps more of much ado about nothing?
Toby Young has resigned from his position on the board of the Office of Students following criticism over controversial comments. Writing for the Spectator, Mr Young suggested his appointment had ‘become a distraction’, apologising for his comments about working class people and women as ‘ill-judged or just plain wrong’. A petition calling for his dismissal had been signed by almost 220,000.
North Korea will send a delegation of atheletes to compete in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea following a symbolic breakthrough in talks between the two countries. The talks were held at the border village of Panmunjom and herald the first time North Korea will participate in the winter games in eight years. In addition to the athletes, the North will send journalists, cheerleaders and a performance-art troupe.
Jean-Claude Juncker has warned the remaining EU27 that they may need to pay more for a shortfall in the EU budget following the UK departure’s in 2019. The gap would amount to than €18 billion annually based on this year’s spending figures. The European Commission president also warned EU officials ‘not to believe’ Remain-supporting politicians such as Tony Blair and Sir Nick Clegg that a second Brexit referendum could be held to stop Britain leaving the bloc. (£)
Russian-supported forces in Syria in support of President Assad have begun an assault of the largest-remaining rebel bastion of Idlib, trapping nearly three million civilians against the Turkish border as the Syrian civil war moves to its conclusion. Largely rural, Idlib is currently controlled by a loose coalition of rebel groups led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former al-Qaeda offshoot also known as the Nusra Front. (£)
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
High street spending in the run-up to Christmas increased at the slowest rate since 2012 as a cost of living squeeze has forced consumers to spend more on food and essential items. Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed that spending in December grew by only 0.6% following a 2.6% jump in food sales, with the sales of non-food items down by 2.2%. Research by Deloitte revealed that the number of retailers filing for administration has also risen for the first time since 2012 as a dent in consumer confidence and rising costs take their toll. (£)
Google has been accused of discrimination against conservative white men in a class action lawsuit filed by two formers engineers. The litigants said they wanted to represent all staff discriminated against due to their “perceived conservative political vies, male gender and Caucasian race”. James Damore, who was fired in August following a memo in which he claimed that the lack of women in top jobs at the firm was due to biological differences, is behind the suit.
Diesel vehicles could see their share fo the UK car market drop from around half in recent years to just 15 per cent by 2025. According to a study by Aston University, a ‘perfect storm’ of environmental concerns and Government policy has led to a slump in demand for diesel cars, by more than 17% last year alone.
What happened yesterday?
After hitting a fresh all-time high in the morning, the FTSE 100 ended the first day of the new week in the red, closing down 28 points, or 0.4%, to finish at 7,696.
A reversal of early losses in the pound and a series of disappointing trading updates were largely to blame for souring the mood in London. Posting its Christmas sales updates, shares in baby clothes seller Mothercare nosedived 28% after missing the mark with its latest discount strategy. Elsewhere, tech giant Micro Focus dropped 17% after revealing that a newly-acquired software product also performed worse than expected.
Adding another millstone to the UK index were falls for major housebuilders Taylor Wimpey (down 1.2%), Persimmon (down 1.1%) and Barratt Developments (down 1.6%) as housing data from lender Halifax showed UK house prices showed the first drop in six months, down 0.6% in December.
The pound was up 0.4% against the euro at €1.13 and 0.1% lower versus the dollar $1.36.
Elegant Hotels Group
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets
Stock Spirits Group
Games Workshop Group
Stock Spirits Group
International Economic Announcements
(07.00) Balance of Trade (GER)
(07.00) Current Account (GER)
(07.00) Industrial Production (GER)
(10.00) Unemployment Rate (EU)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
Tom Harris suggests the current high turnover in ministerial positions has led to a much greater say on government affairs for the permanent civil service.Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Harris recommends that this be the last major change to May’s cabinet for at least a couple of years, allowing a new generation at least the chance to begin honing their statecraft.
In the latest string of predictions for 2018, Rana Foroohar comments in the Financial Times that wages, corporate spending and developments in the tech sector will be the big market movers this year. As shifting demography and inequality promise continuing political volatility, Foroohar suggests that global markets should keep an eye on data – and who controls it – for the best investment in 2018 and a predictor of things to come.
DID YOU KNOW?
The person who has given the most service to the UK government as a minister during the modern era is, unsurprisingly, Winston Churchill. He served for 29 years between various posts starting as Minister for the Colonies in 1905 and ending with his third premiership in 1955. Churchill also holds the record for longest serving MP in the modern era, a period of 63 years and 360 days, although not continuously.
House of Commons
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (including Topical Questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Construction Retention Deposit Schemes) – Peter Aldous
Trade Bill - 2nd reading
Proposals for housing and infrastructure development in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – Dame Cheryl Gillan
House of Lords
Equalising statutory pay received for shared parental leave by people of any gender - Baroness Burt of Solihull
How many families were homeless over Christmas 2017 - Lord Kennedy of Southwark
Decision of the government of China to restrict the imports of foreign waste – Lord Teverson
Process of appointing the Board members of the Office for Students – Lord Storey
Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill [HL] – 2nd reading – Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [HL] – 2nd reading – Baroness Sugg
Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee Debate
Article 50 Withdrawal Negotiations
Maintenance of Tenement Communal Property
House of Commons
Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (including Topical Questions)
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Planning (Agent of Change) – John Spellar
Opposition Day Debate
Subject to be announced
Academisation of primary school in Cambridge – Daniel Zeichner
House of Lords
Operation of the “break glass clause” in the supply of agency nurses to hospital trusts from off-framework agencies - Lord Clark of Windermere
Impact of investments in local roads on traffic congestion and productivity in local areas - Baroness Neville-Rolfe
Ensuring that Russia respects the territorial integrity of Georgia and withdraws its troops from Georgian soil - Lord Harries of Pentregarth
Data Protection Bill [HL] – Report stage (day 3) – Lord Ashton of Hyde
Orders and regulations
Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2017 – motion to approve – Lord Duncan of Springbank
Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2017 – motion to regret – Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
Justice and the Law Officers
Culture, Tourism and External Affairs
Scottish Government Debate
Glasgow 2018 European Championships
Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 – Adam Tomkins