20th November 2019

Written by Scott Reid, Associate Partner

Edited by Kevin Pringle, Partner

Good morning,

As I sat watching last night ITV’s General Election leadership debate, slowly losing the will to live to the drumbeat of a thousand hackneyed soundbites and mystified by the Tories’ decision to rebrand their Twitter account as “factcheckUK”, a surprising thought came to mind: Norway. It was an article from September that I remembered reading. Here was a hacked-off Norwegian television presenter who, in despair at the frenzied tone of her country’s politics, had launched a new concept debate show, Einig? (or Agreed? in English), which forced her country’s politicians to find areas of common ground on contentious issues. Against all odds, it was a ratings success. A Nordic glimmer of hope, perhaps, in our present swamp of cynicism? OK, I hear your groans. Noble, sure. But maybe also naff. As a weekly prime-time show rather than a one-off head-to-head held during an election, Einig?’s cuddly perspective probably isn’t the right answer for British politics either. It does beg the question though: what’s the point in election TV debates anyway? Discounting those halcyon days of 2010 when that year’s leadership debates led to a brief Lib Dem surge in the polls and “I agree with Nick” badges flooding the streets (in the end, only resulting in a minor uptick in their popular vote and actually fewer seats overall, of course), can anyone think of a single debate that’s made an iota of difference? If anything, TV debates just endorse our worst instincts for confirmation bias, and so are the perfect love match for the frenzied partisan rage that characterises today’s public debate. Last night is a point in case: according to a Sky News/You Gov snap poll of viewers 51% thought Johnson “won” against Corbyn’s 49%. Fifty-four per cent found Johnson more prime ministerial to Corbyn’s 29%. And 59% thought Corbyn more in touch with ordinary people to Johnson’s 25%. So far, so much the same. The notorious absence from last night’s debate were, of course, the leaders of the other parties, which prompted an unsuccessful legal appeal by the Lib Dems and SNP earlier in the week. Now, as part of providing representation before 12 December, we have a four-way Question Time leaders’ panel scheduled for Friday, another four-way Sky News panel next Thursday, a seven-way the night after, one more head-to-head on December 6, and a young voters’ audience special on the 9th. If I had my politico hat on, I’d suggest that those six performances might be a worry for the main parties, which will have to repeatedly trot out their leaders when the polls show a majority of us aren’t really that keen on watching in the first place. But with my TV viewer hat on, I’d counter: ‘what’s the worry?’ By the 9th, we may have tuned out anyway.


The White House has criticised testimony by its top Ukraine official that president Trump had made “inappropriate” political demands of his Ukrainian counterpart. Lt Col Alexander Vindman, who serves on the US National Security Council, appeared before the congressional impeachment inquiry yesterday and was pressed by Republicans on his loyalty to the US after being approached by the Ukrainian government to become the country’s defence minister. The president of Oxford University Union has resigned following a row which involved “violently” removing a blind student during a student debate. On Saturday, Ebenezer Azamati was cleared of any wrongdoing after he attempted to regain his seat during a debate and was removed by a Union security guard. Union president Brendan McGrath apologised for his “mistakes” in pressing the removal and resigned.

Standard Chartered has become the latest corporate partner to cut ties with Prince Andrew’s business mentoring scheme, Pitch@Palace. KPMG pulled its support for the programme yesterday but both companies are said to have made their decisions ahead of the Duke of York’s interview on Newsnight. Advertising Week Europe and tech firm Gravity have also cut ties.

Business and economy

The Institute of Directors has recommended that British boardrooms introduce a new ethical code of conduct to restore public trust in business. As part of its call to political parties ahead of the general election, the Institute also said that a new company classification – a public service corporation – should be created that would balance voting rights between workers, supply chains and other stakeholders in addition to shareholders. (£) US regulators have ruled that Boeing should redesign the covering of its 737 planes following its contribution to the fatal accident in 2018. The National Transportation Safety Board also ruled that its existing planes should be improved. The crash of the Southwest Airlines plane was caused by a rupture to the plane’s engine, leading to the first fatality on a US passenger airline since 2009. Online retail logistics group Clipper Logistics is in discussions over a £300 million takeover bid to take it private. Sky News reports that the group’s founder and chairman Steve Parkin is in advanced talks over his 40% share with US-based buyout firm Sun Capital Partners. Clipper Logistics fulfils deliveries for retailers including ASOS and John Lewis.


What happened yesterday?

On a day relatively void of market news, the pound was down by 0.2% on both the dollar at $1.29 and the euro at €1.17 as investors were uncertain ahead of last night’s general election debate. Sterling’s losses contributed to gains on the equity markets, however, with the FTSE 100 up 0.22% at 7,323.80 points and performing well against European peers. The Confederation of British Industry reported that output in the manufacturing sector improved more than expected in November though remained weak overall. The CBI’s total orders balance came in at -26 this month, increasing from -37 in October and beating expectations of -31. Safety, health and environmental technology group Halma topped the FTSE’s gains (up 8.56%) as it reported record first-half results thanks to revenue growth across all its regions and business divisions. Equiniti Group was the day’s largest faller on the FTSE 250 (down 12.75%) after the technology specialist warned that its underlying earnings for 2019 would be at the lower end of market expectations due to weaker higher margin UK corporate activity.

What's happening today?


Alpha Fin. Mkts Argentex Group. Creightons Liontrust Asset Management United Utilities


Focusrite Mitchells & Butlers SSP Group


Brand Architek Finsbury Food Jupiter Us Sml Origin Ranbow Rare

UK Economic Announcements

(11.00) CBI Industrial Trends Surveys

Intl. Economic Announcements

(07.00) Producer Price Index (GER) (12.00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US) (15.30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Intl. Economic Announcements

Direct Line

Source: Financial Times

Columns of note

Anand Menon writes in the Financial Times that the EU’s tactics in Brexit negotiations have to date been fuelled by politics rather than protection of its legal framework. The writer, who is director of the UK in a Changing Europe thinktank, suggests that neither side has emerged with flying colours from negotiations, and so the notion that a flawed UK made unreasonable demands on a rationalist, legally constrained EU does not hold. (£) In The Times, Katherine Griffiths writes on Royal Bank of Scotland’s attempts to enter into the challenger bank sector with the launch of its subsidiary, Bó. Whilst the digital bank spin-off may be targeted at millennials - in similar branding to Monzo or Starling Bank, for example - Griffiths suggests consumers are nevertheless more interested in the trust associations that come with a bricks-and-mortar presence by banks on UK high streets. (£)

Cartoon source: The Telegraph

Did you know?

Chickens and fish make up 95% of all farmed animals.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY House of Commons The House will next sit on Monday 16 December 2019. House of Lords The House will next sit on Monday 16 December 2019. Scottish Parliament

Ministerial Statement 30th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Ward Closures Portfolio Questions Scottish Labour Party Debate Universal Credit Investing in Scotland Members’ Business Celebrating the International Year of the Periodic Table – Iain Gray TOMORROW Scottish Parliament General Questions First Minister’s Questions Members’ Business World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Day – Annie Wells Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Questions Portfolio Questions Scottish Government Debate TV Licences for over 75s