20th January 2020
Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate
Edited by Adam Shaw, Associate Partner
Good morning, This weekend, Londoners were gifted with near-perfect winter weather. Bluebird sunshine, biting cold, a sliver of frost; the privileged elite were foaming at the mouth over the taste of Alp-like serenity, collectively pining for a run on a nice Swiss carver and a pint of ghastly Gluhwein – with a mark-up, of course, for the sheer volume of wood and cow hide in the “authentic” après lodge. This is the setting I like to imagine when I think of the World Economic Forum (WEF), convening tomorrow in Davos. The world’s leaders, all perched on wooden stumps, immobile in their ski fleeces, with big red goggle lines and parched lips, white with sun cream. It makes them more accessible, to me at least. For they are mostly not my demographic. And by demographic, I mean gender. This year 24% of all Davos participants are women, up from 22% last year. In fact, you are more likely to find a North American at Davos than a woman. The event, which is primarily invite only and has earned a reputation for “high-altitude pontificating”, marks its 50th anniversary this year and will see leaders, chief executives, thinkers and celebrities vying for the attention of WEF founder Klaus Schwab. Hot topics on the agenda include the US-China trade war, the regulation of technology companies, mental health, sustainability, and the climate emergency. Issues, I think we can all agree, that impact women just as much as men. In fact, climate change will arguably go on to have a far greater effect on the lives of the world’s poorest women than any other demographic. So, why are they absent from discussions? The WEF says it’s just interested in bringing leaders together for the greater good. I get that. The problem is not necessarily with the WEF – although it would be nice if they just invited more women – it’s with a system that enabled only the same breed of person to become leaders. But now many argue that the event is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Only 239 people from the UK are attending this year – the lowest UK attendance since 2010 – after Boris Johnson banned ministers from going. And herein lies our answer. If the whole thing became immaterial, we wouldn’t have to shoehorn women and minorities into a boy’s club, and we might have a chance of starting afresh with some real representation. Maybe a summit, I don’t know, not in a ski resort. Just a thought...
The Duke of Sussex has said he is “taking a leap of faith” in stepping back from being a senior royal, lamenting “there really was no other option”. Speaking at an event on Sunday evening, Prince Harry said he and Meghan had hoped to continue serving the Queen, but without public funding. This was not possible. Three men have been killed in a suspected triple stabbing in Redbridge, north east London. All three men, believed to be in their 20s or 30s, died at the scene of their stab injuries, according to Scotland Yard. On Sunday night officers were in the process of identifying the men and contacting their next of kin. No arrests have been made and the incident has sparked a triple homicide investigation. A third person has died in a virus outbreak in China, as 139 new cases of the illness were found over the weekend. The new virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002 outbreak that also started in China. Authorities have warned that the virus is spreading to more cities as the country gears up for the lunar new year later this week, with hundreds of millions expected to travel domestically.
Business and economy
Building the high-speed rail link HS2 could cost up to £106 billion, a government-commissioned review has said. The review, seen by the Financial Times, says there is “considerable risk” that the scheme’s price will rise as much as 20% beyond the £81-88 billion range set out in a report by current HS2 chairman Allan Cook last September. Transport operator Stagecoach is taking the government to the High Court later, where it will argue that ministers acted unlawfully in awarding rail franchises. Last year, Stagecoach and its partners were barred from bidding to run three franchises in a row over pension liabilities. House prices in the UK have risen by 2.3% since the general election on 12 December, adding £6,785 to the value of the average home, according to property search website Rightmove. This is the largest monthly price rise recorded for this time of year since Rightmove began its surveys in 2002.
Columns of note
Edward Bullmore argues that inflammation is medicine's new frontier in The Guardian. It’s clear now that inflammation is part of the problem in many, if not all, diseases of the body. And targeting immune or inflammatory causes of disease has led to a series of breakthroughs; from rheumatoid arthritis to the advent of immunotherapy for cancers. Now, medical minds are opening up to the idea that inflammation could be as widely implicated in brain and mind related disorders as it is in bodily disorders. This is just part of the reason we need a more integrated system of physical and mental health services. Writing in The Times, Tim Blair sheds light on the damning impact of outlawing traditional land-clearing in Australia. Once standard practice, the Aboriginal method of clearing land by burning it and establishing fire-delaying dirt paths, was ruled environmentally unsustainable and outlawed. But the indigenous population knew that an absence of controlled burns would invite uncontrolled burns – such as the gigantic wildfires that have ravaged Australia since September.
The week ahead
The world’s top economists, business leaders and politicians convene this week in Davos for the 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum. High on the agenda will be the impact of an ongoing trade war between the US and China. They will also discuss the regulation of big tech and a move toward ESG investing and stakeholder capitalism. In Canada, extradition hearings are about to begin for Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. She is accused of defrauding HSBC and breaking US sanctions on Iran. Wall Street earnings season continues this week, as companies report fourth quarter results from 2019. Leading the pack is digital streaming service Netflix, which has returned a massive 4000% to investors since 2009 despite a disappointing performance last year. Also reporting this week are Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble. Equity investors are now looking for earnings to drive returns, rather than central bank stimulus growth which drove much of the activity throughout 2019. Finally, Christine Lagarde is expected to start a strategic review of the European Central Bank’s monetary policy on Thursday. Confidence has been growing amongst eurozone investors, but growth has stalled. Most economists expect Lagarde to leave monetary policy unchanged.
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Did you know?
Snails will sleep for up to three years if the weather isn't good enough.
TODAY House of Commons Oral questions Education (including topical questions) Debate on the address The economy and jobs Adjournment Lowestoft tidal flood barrier – Peter Aldous House of Lords Oral questions Human rights situation in Indian-administered Kashmir following the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35(A) of the Indian constitution - Lord Hussain The treatment of Uighurs in China and representations made to the government of China regarding this treatment - Baroness Warsi The commencement of operations of the Office for Environmental Protection - Lord Teverson Plans to replace the proposed UK Holocaust Memorial with a national memorial commemorating all victims of extermination or genocide - Lord Hylton Legislation European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – Report stage (day 1) - Lord Callanan Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.
House of Commons Oral questions Business, energy and industrial strategy (including topical questions) Legislation Direct payments to farmers (legislative continuity) bill: second reading General debate Grenfell Tower inquiry’s phase one report Adjournment Stepping Hill hospital – Mr William Wragg House of Lords Legislation European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Report stage (day 2) - Lord Callanan Oral questions Resolving the power generation problems affecting Type 45 destroyers - Lord West of Spithead How a federal or confederal system of government could be implemented in the UK - Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Producing an effective strategy for dealing with alcohol abuse in 2020 - Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Changing the four hour accident and emergency waiting time target - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Legislation European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Report stage (day 2) continued - Lord Callanan European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – Third Reading - Lord Callanan Scottish Parliament Topical questions (if selected) Ministerial statement The strategy for our veterans – taking the strategy forward in Scotland Stage three proceedings Scottish National Investment Bank Bill Committee announcements