23rd December 2019
Written by Sabina Kadic-Mackenzie, Associate Partner
Edited by Laura Hamilton, Managing Partner
I’ve always had a problem with the concept of Santa Claus. It started when I was very young, manifesting itself as envy of all my school friends who would return for a new term every January with blindingly shiny new pencil cases or iPods or Poppers or (insert that which you desired as an eight-year-old). Their innocent question was always, “what did Santa get you?”
The response of “nothing” every year raised even more questions, the subtext being that I was obviously bad in some way and this was my punishment.
The thing is, like billions of people around the world, my immediate family simply doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and so I was never threatened with Santa’s watchful eye. There was no turkey, no sprouts, and definitely no presents.
But what if you’re one of the more than four million children in the UK who believes in the fat home intruder and his power to judge your goodness, but the poverty which you experience day in and day out means that you just don’t get the same return on investment for being good all year as, say, a wealthier kid?
Worse still, what if you’re a parent or relative of one of these children who dreads the festive season for the hole it burns in your already shredded pocket, who gets into increasing amounts of unsecured debt to ensure Santa delivers?
And that’s where, as an adult and a parent in our modern society, my problem with Santa Claus rages on.
A recent study of 2,000 parents of 5-16-year-olds found the average child has asked for nine presents in 2019, but that parents intend to splash out on a minimum of 12 per child, to the tune of an average £247 each.
Many of us, myself included, are guilty of overindulging our children at this time of year, while at the same time perpetuating the Santa falsehood that as people we can be compartmentalised into two straightforward categories of the “good” and the “bad”, leaving little room for the ugly realities of life.
How do you explain to a young child on the poverty line why, on Christmas Day, not only will they not get a present, but they’re also likely to go hungry in the absence of that school meal which warms their belly during term time? It simply doesn’t fit Santa’s neat narrative.
Millions of children, my own two included, will wake up on 25th December to delightful screams of “he’s been”. Sadly, some will not and will question what they did wrong. It will be especially hard upon return to school when the haves and have-nots will become apparent, if they aren’t already.
In solidarity with those who simply can’t afford to subsidise Santa for another year (or choose not to), I’m standing my ground and adding my name to the gift tags this year.
I’m not a complete monster though. They will get something from Santa under the tree so that we can retain some of the magic. However, it won’t be a gift that isolates others less fortunate or makes them question their own personal worth, nor that of others.
Islamic State is re-organising in Iraq, two years after losing the last of its territory, according to Kurdish and Western intelligence officials. Lahur Talabany, a top Kurdish counter-terrorism official, told the BBC that a different kind of IS has emerged – one that no longer wishes to control territory to avoid being a target – and the militants are now more dangerous than al-Qaeda.
The Professional Footballers’ Association has said it is “dismayed and disgusted” at allegations of racist abuse at yesterday’s Premier League fixture between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, and called for a government inquiry. Chelsea defender Antonio Rüdiger claims he suffered racist abuse during the match and supporters were warned about racist behaviour over a loudspeaker. Tottenham have already initiated their own investigation.
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband is among the group of senior party officials which will lead the review of its disastrous general election result. Joining Miliband are former shadow education secretary Lucy Powell, Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Jo Platt, former MP for Leigh, Sienna Rodgers, editor of Labourlist, and James Meadway, former economic adviser to shadow chancellor John McDonnell. The inquest will aim to “rise above the factional infighting which has coloured much of Labour politics for the last four years”.
Business and economy
China has cut import tariffs on 859 types of products, including consumer goods, food, and smart-phones components, from 1 January, as Beijing looks to lower trade barriers and boost domestic demand. In 2018, imports of the items totalled $389 billion, according to Bloomberg. The decision is not directly related to the US-China trade war, however, it does support China’s claim to be further opening its economy as it pursues a deal with the Trump administration.
The Department of Work and Pensions has apologised after former Thomas Cook employees claimed the “benefits system has failed them”. The BBC has been contacted by dozens of former employees of the collapsed tour operator, who say they have experienced delays to welfare payments and have been poorly advised by job centres. The problem stems from confusion over whether they are entitled to job seeker's allowance or universal credit, as the tour operator's administration process remains ongoing.
Car dealers fear that sales of new vehicles will fall further in 2020 to an eight-year low as economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit persists and motorists continue to shun diesel, with the shortfall not being made up by electric cars. New registrations are set to come in at 2.3 million this year, a fall of three per cent and the industry’s worst performance since 2013. The National Franchised Dealers Association forecasts that new car sales will fall to 2.2 million next year. (£)
Columns of note
As Labour’s election review gets underway, Alex Niven examines what the party needs to do to regain the Northern seats it lost to the Conservatives. Niven argues that Labour’s crisis is the result of long-running and structural problems, which began with the deindustrialisation of the northern economy, removing the cultural backbone of towns and villages which voted collectively for the party. He accepts that a “new communiatarianism” should form part of any long-term democratic socialist strategy, but that the focus on winning back voters should be a new regionalism through devolution and the relocation of major institutions out of London, as well as demonstrating the hollowness of Conservative claims to be the new party of the north.
In the Financial Times, Patrick Jenkins looks at the success of various former McKinsey consultants who have taken on chief executive roles at major companies. He highlights that several have done very well – James Gorman at Morgan Stanley, Nigel Wilson at L&G, and Oliver Bäte at Allianz – but points to some significant examples of those who have failed, such as Jeffery Skilling at Enron and Mike Pearson at Valeant. Jenkins accepts that McKinsey’s scale means that there will always be a few “rogues or incompetents” but suggests that the key lesson is for companies to ensure candidates have gained operational experience upon leaving McKinsey before appointing them to a chief executive role. (£)
What happened yesterday?
Unsurprisingly, it is set to be a quiet week on the international markets, with most closing or observing reduced hours over Christmas.
The London Stock Exchange is closed from 12.30pm on 24 December and will re-open for trading on 27 December.
Similarly, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will end trading at 1pm on Tuesday, however, will re-open on Boxing Day.
No major corporate news is expected and there is – currently – little on the political agenda.
What's happening today?
Interims Zoetic International
AGMs Mila Resources
Int. Economic Announcements
(15:00) New Homes Sales (US)
Did you know?
Bubble wrap was invented in 1957 and originally intended as wallpaper. When that was unsuccessful it was marketed as greenhouse insulation. It was only in 1961 that its use as a protective packaging was realised.
House of Commons In recess until 7 January House of Lords In recess until 7 January Scottish Parliament In recess until 6 January