16th December 2019
Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate
Edited by Iain Gibson, Associate Partner
Good morning, Irish poet and satirist Johnathan Swift once said: “It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom”. And if the result of last week’s election has taught me anything at all, it’s that this adage applies now more than ever. Just exchange “London coffee-house” for “Twitter” and he’s bang on the money. You see, over the past few weeks my social media feeds have been a bountiful cornucopia of left-wing rhetoric. A breeding ground for abundant, unbridled Corbynism, if I could slash the verdant vines of support, they would bleed thick red. There seemed unstoppable activism across the Twittersphere; its calamitous collective voice screeching the virtues of Jezza, the murderous evils of Tory austerity. Tweet upon tweet touted a youth more engaged than ever, a surge in liberals flocking to vote, hands itching to scratch that ‘X’ on their ballot paper with one name in mind. So, why didn’t I wake up to a stonking victory for the Labour Party on Friday morning? Setting my own political leanings aside, I was genuinely surprised by the election result – mostly because of the incessant hullaballoo of left-wing Twitter. My insular virtual bubble had once again let me down. If it hadn’t been for the astonishingly accurate exit poll, I’d have been totally blindsided. And there is one primary reason why my Twitter got it so catastrophically wrong: it is totally unrepresentative. Twitter is used by just 19% of the adult population, and most commonly by those under 50, who have a university education. David Cameron said it best in the aftermath of his 2015 victory, when polls famously got it very wrong: “Britain and Twitter are not the same thing”. Pollsters learned their lesson back then; it seems I did not. On election night, I was too distracted by Twitter-based scandals (see: Jo Swinson killing squirrels with rocks and Jeremy Corbyn feeling sorry for yet more terrorists) to grasp any real understanding of what the wider collective was thinking, predicting a close race to a red finish and not being quiet about it (sorry mum). And so, there’s a lesson to be learned the hard way: Twitter doesn’t speak for the nation. Hopefully, next time, I’ll save myself the embarrassment.
Prime minister Boris Johnson will address his new intake of Conservative MPs later as they arrive in Westminster to take their seats in parliament. Johnson is expected to carry out a mini cabinet reshuffle to fill posts made vacant by those who stood down ahead of the general election. Their first job will be to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which the prime minister intends to bring back before Christmas.
England cricketer Ben Stokes has been awarded BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The hero of England’s World Cup final win was presented with his award at the P&J arena in Aberdeen in front of 10,000 spectators, with millions more tuning in at home. It’s the first time a cricketer has taken home the top prize since it was won by Andrew Flintoff in 2005.
Deadly protests erupted across India yesterday over a controversial citizenship bill that critics fear could further marginalise the country’s Muslim community. The new law entitles non-Muslim migrants from three Muslim-majority countries to citizenship if they are facing religious persecution. Police used tear gas and detained protestors in the capital of New Delhi, with buses torched and roads blocked. At least five people were killed in ongoing protests in Assam, in India’s north east.
Business and economy
A boost for the housing market is expected following Boris Johnson’s decisive election victory, but property experts fear that it will not fully recover until Brexit is “well in the past”. According to property website Rightmove, house prices will rise by an average of two per cent in 2020, more than double the 0.8% growth rate this year. (£)
Lengthy negotiations at the COP25 climate summit in Madrid have stuttered to an inconclusive close, as leaders failed to agree on whether to include carbon credits in the new system. Despite running 44 hours over its allotted time, the conference was only able to agree to stepping up the global response to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A decision to scrap the “worthless” credits – which were created as a way for rich countries to pay poorer nations for emissions reductions projects, thus offsetting their emissions – was blocked by China, India and Brazil, countries which still hold the credits.
Ministers are set to choose the next governor of the Bank of England over the coming days, in a move that will enable incumbent Mark Carney to leave on his scheduled departure date of January 31 2020. The frontrunners to succeed Carney are Minouche Shafik, London School of Economics director; Andrew Bailey, Financial Conduct Authority chief executive; and Kevin Warsh, a former top official at the US Federal Reserve. The Treasury stressed on Sunday that no final decision has yet been made and there is no certainty of an announcement before Christmas. (£)
Columns of note
In The Atlantic, Peter Schwartzstein shines a light on the death of history’s greatest sea: the eastern Mediterranean. There is a sad irony in the fact that a sea which once facilitated the growth of some of the greatest civilisations in world history, is now being left to decay much in the same way as the region itself. One reason for its pollution is its topography. Because it has few external outlets, it takes roughly 100 years for a drop of water to exit the sea, causing the build-up of toxins. More recently, conflict has sent crude oil gushing into it and financial ruin in the region has seen its regeneration relegated to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. But, given the area is now so dependent on tourism, and tourists want to swim in the sea, cleaning up the eastern Med needs to become a priority, and fast.
Jia Tolentino comments on the cyborgs of Instagram in the New Yorker. Constant adjustment and editing of photos – in particular an app called FaceTune – has led to the emergence of one face, the Instagram Face, now apparent on Instagram accounts the world over. It is flawless and poreless, with big cat-like eyes and bigger lips. And now, men and women are now resorting to plastic surgery so they can look like this filter in real life. A fascinating examination of a 21st Century epidemic. (£)
The week ahead
Attention will turn to Brexit this week after Boris Johnson’s election victory, which now sees him with a decisive mandate to secure withdrawal from the EU by 31 January 2020. After that, Johnson will have to focus on negotiations with Brussels for a trade deal, which he has ambitiously pledged to achieve by the end of next year.
The Bank of England meets later this week to decide on whether to change UK interest rates, with commentators expecting the central bank to hold off for the time being.
Likewise, the Bank of Japan meets to discuss interest rates and the state of the world’s fourth largest economy. The central bank has been under a lot of pressure recently following the US Federal Reserve’s decision to cut interest rates and a steady drip of negative news about the global economy, coupled with sluggish domestic growth. But, with a healthy package of fiscal stimulus from the government, the Bank of Japan is expected to sit on its hands for the time being.
Russian president Vladimir Putin will hold his annual news conference and commentators are poised for any signal on future foreign policy. Several hundred journalists from across the world will be able to question the president for a number of hours; under the spotlight will be sluggish economic growth and Russia’s relationship with Ukraine.
Finally, Canadian firm Cannabis One will release results this week, giving insight into how the burgeoning cannabis market is developing. Investors have lost their buzz for the sector in recent months, so will be watching this set of results to see what indication they give about broader demand for the drug.
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Did you know?
Actor Jonah Hill was hospitalised after snorting too much fake cocaine (powdered vitamin D) during the filming of Wolf of Wall Street.
TODAY House of Commons No business scheduled. House of Lords No business scheduled. Scottish Parliament No business scheduled. TOMORROW House of Commons Election of the Speaker Swearing in of Members of the House of Commons House of Lords Swearing in of Members of the House of Lords Scottish Parliament Topical questions (if selected) Stage 3 proceedings UEFA European Championship (Scotland) Bill Committee Announcements Business Motions Members’ Business S5M-20197 Alex Rowley: A Menu for Change’s Report, Found Wanting