2nd December 2019
Written by Javier Maquieira, Associate
Edited by Iain Gibson, Associate Partner
My whole life has revolved around female role models. I was brought up mainly by women and socialised in rather feminine set-ups. Even in my good Catholic boy days, my grandmother would exert a greater spiritual influence on me than the priest. Somehow, during my childhood and teenage years I failed to notice that everyone I found relatable was more often than not a woman. Eventually, I realised that my sensitivity was more widely accepted in spaces where toxic masculinity wasn’t as present, which partly explains why I tend to feel so anxious in all-male situations. It would be a mistake to assume that female leaders are part of a homogeneous group of empathetic and nurturing mothers with a propensity for generous social policy and feminist stances. In fact, they are as heterogeneous as their male counterparts, and some of them have even proven to be as individualistic and inhumane as some men. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel excited as I saw Ursula von der Leyen officially become the first woman to hold the presidency of the European Commission yesterday – exactly one month later than expected. The longest-serving minister in Angela Merkel’s governments, von der Leyen has given herself and her new College of Commissioners one hundred days to deliver on rather enthusiastic policy pledges, including a European Green Deal, a legal instrument on fair minimum wage, binding pay transparency measures aimed at gender equality and legislation on the “human and ethical implications” of artificial intelligence. That’s certainly ambitious, not least considering other pressing issues like Brexit and the ongoing US-China trade conflict that the EU is already facing. But the top EU chief isn’t alone in her ambitions, with the so-called "deputy queen" of Europe (after Merkel), Margrethe Vestager, now serving as executive vice-president for the digital age. Vestager’s promotion from commissioner to vice-president is an acknowledgement of her position as one of Europe’s most powerful politicians, after five years of investigations and fines against tech giants like Google, Facebook and Apple. Von der Leyen’s ability to build consensus among member states and successfully position the EU as an influential partner in global politics is yet to be tested. But when I think of that 11-year-old so captivated by his non-fictional superheroines, I feel hopeful about a new kind of leadership that sees empathy and sensitivity as synonyms with strength. As we head into a new decade, this increased female visibility and representation feels like a chance to bring about real and lasting change.
The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has refused to participate in Wednesday's House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing. In a letter addressed to the House committee, Trump and his attorneys accused it of a "complete lack of due process and fundamental fairness" in the inquiry, adding that the invitation to attend on 4 December would fail to give the White House enough time to prepare for the hearing. London’s Metropolitan police has identified 23-year-old Saskia Jones as the second victim of the London Bridge attack. A former Cambridge student, Saskia was killed along Jack Merritt, 25, by Usman Khan in his knife attack on Friday. Both had been attending an event to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Learning Together, a prison-based education project. Prime minister Boris Johnson told the BBC yesterday that the Ministry of Justice will carry out an urgent review of licence conditions for 74 people jailed for terror offences and released early. The decision comes after the Friday attack by convicted terrorist Usman Khan, who had served half of his sentence. The Labour party, on the other hand, is blaming budget cuts for "missed chances to intervene." Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, is expected stand down in January amid controversy around the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist who had investigated and unearthed corruption at all levels in the country. Muscat has been facing months of pressure from protesters and opposition to resign, after he allowed ministers caught up in the scandal to keep their positions.
Business and economy
The outgoing governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has been appointed UN special envoy for climate action and finance. Carney said he was "honoured" to be asked to take on the role, which he will do once his term as governor ends on 31 January 2020. The current governor will be responsible for mobilising private finance to take climate action and transition to a net-zero carbon economy ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties meeting in Glasgow in November 2020. Labour will pledge to cut rail fares after Britain’s train companies confirmed a 2.7% price raise for next year over the weekend. Jeremy Corbyn is expected to announce the party’s plans to slash regulated rail fares in England in a visit to a railway station. The proposed policy includes free train travel for children aged 16 and under and “fair” fares for part-time workers. A new variety of apple that can allegedly last longer than a year in the fridge is to be introduced in the US market this week. The Cosmic Crisp, as it is known, has been developed for two decades and is a cross between the Enterprise and Honeycrisp apple varieties, with “naturally higher levels of acidity and sugar.” Its $10m launch comes after three years of planting apple trees.
The week ahead
Climate change is high on the agenda this week, with world leaders gathering in Madrid for COP25, the first big climate meeting since the US announcement that it would abandon the Paris Accord. Nato is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a gathering in London, at which US president Donald Trump is expected to attend amid disagreement among member states over the organisation’s core mission and future strategy. Oil producers in the Opec cartel will meet in Vienna on Thursday, being joined by ministers from Russia and other exporters on Friday. They will seek an agreement on how to manage their oil production next year, with Saudi Arabia keen to avoid any fall in oil prices. Investors will be closely watching Friday’s US jobs report and will look to European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde for policy direction when she appears before the European Parliament in Brussels today. In corporate news, ecommerce will be under the spotlight during the Cyber Monday online sales, when Amazon is expected to have a bumper day. Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco plans to price its IPO on Thursday, with about 4.9m retail investors in the kingdom having bid for shares before the deadline, at a total valuation of 47.4bn Saudi riyals ($12.6bn) Tiffany reports third-quarter results on Thursday and is expected to post a rise in same-store sales, backed by new marketing and product lines. It comes a little more than a week after the US jeweller agreed to be bought by French luxury group LVMH for $16.6bn.
What's happening today?
AGMs JPMorgan Smaller Companies UK Mortgages UK Economic Announcements (09:30) PMI Manufacturing Int. Economic Announcements (08:55) PMI Manufacturing (GER) (09:00) PMI Manufacturing (EU) (14:45) PMI Manufacturing (US) (15:00) Construction Spending (US) (15:00) ISM Prices Paid (US) (15:00) ISM Manufacturing (US)
Columns of note
Writing in the Financial Times, Tony Barber notes the diversity of actors supporting the environmentalist cause compared to twenty years ago. According to Barber, it is a political and business response to society wanting to do more, rather than radical activist pressure, that is shaping climate change strategies. Although this social consciousness extends beyond Europe, the US features as the country with a broader social base of climate change denial. In the EU in particular, Barber concludes that controversies over how best to manage climate change play into sharper debates over inequalities in European society. (£) Liberal Democrat MP candidate (and former Conservative minister) Sam Gyimah argues in City A.M. that regulation is lagging behind on how to support a labour model between traditional full-time work and self-employment that would benefit the likes of Deliveroo, TaskRabbit and Uber. Gyimah calls on politicians to develop regulation that enables the benefits of the “gig economy” in imaginative and creative ways. He proposes modernising employment rights to recognise this type of work by tackling zero-hours contracts and delivering a fairer overarching model.
Did you know?
In the 1964 UK general election, Harold Wilson managed to persuade the BBC to delay a repeat of the sitcom Steptoe and Son until after the polls had closed. Wilson later said that the increased turnout swung the balance in a dozen marginal seats, winning the election for Labour.
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 No business scheduled TOMORROW Scottish Parliament
Ministerial Statement Auditor General Report into Prisons Members' Business S5M-18826 Jenny Gilruth: Making Glenrothes a Living Wage Town Scottish Government Debate Scottish Government Support for Veterans and the Armed Forces Community in Scotland Committee Announcements Members' Business S5M-18901 Jeremy Balfour: #PurpleLightUp, a Global Movement for Change