31st October 2019
Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate
Edited by Sabina Kadić-Mackenzie, Associate Partner
Having spent considerable time labouring over this introduction, I came across an article that awakened a fire deep inside me. A feminist fire. And thus, all other ideas were instantly rubbish. Please read on, if not for me, then for the fire. I grew up with three younger sisters, horrible and hysterical in equal measure. Our house was – and still is – filled with a spicy blend of sarcasm, satire and, most importantly, women. And I have never since found a group that can make me belly-laugh with such vigour. If it’s not off-the-cuff backchat from a 13-year-old hanging upside down from a bannister with a lolly dangling limply from her mouth, it’s an adolescent refusing to remove her hoody despite it being oppressively hot, scoffing retorts quicker than my dad can deal her them. Comedic timing down to a tee; material salacious; individual creative freedom: unlimited. The real tragedy then, is that this organic confidence – the one nurtured and tended within the safe confines of our raucous sisterhood – will one day go into the real world and swiftly die. Because – in a system where men make all the rules – women just aren’t funny. And now, we've got the research to prove it. The Journal of Research in Personality is set to publish a humour review of over 5,000 subjects. “In plain English,” they say, “63 per cent of men score above the mean [average] humour ability of women.” This is undoubtedly a curious result, but little has been done to figure out why. To hasten a guess, I’d say it was something to do with the following. Women are told consistently and ferociously that we are not funny from a young age. We enter a world which has been largely tailored to the requirements of men, run by men, for the benefit of men. Even the aforementioned journal itself is edited by a man; its leadership team two-thirds too heavy on the Y chromosome. And they expect us to crack a joke. Juxtapose this with conditions which serve to give men confidence, a framework to be funny, and the legitimacy to contribute and it’s clear that we’re setting our girls up for a loss from the outset. But this disadvantage affects more than just our ability to be in on the “bants”. In an almost too perfect illustration of my argument, a BBC equal pay tribunal was told yesterday that Jeremy Vine deserves to be paid more than Samira Ahmed because he is funnier. Apparently, humour has been a key BBC pay measurement metric since the golden days of Morecambe and Wise. Go figure. For what it’s worth, and in case you haven’t guessed already, I don’t think men are funnier than women. I just think they are more confident (and arguably some, not all, are arrogant) in a way that women rarely feel they can be. Perhaps then we should foster an environment which emboldens young girls very early on with this self-assurance, rather than vilifying female comics, shooting down potential role models and relegating their humour to the “girl banter” box. After all, it’s not just laughs at stake; it’s our salaries.
Jeremy Corbyn will kick off his general election campaign by pledging to take on “the few who run a corrupt system” in a speech later today. The Labour leader will promise to “rebuild” public services and hit out at “tax dodgers, dodgy landlords, bad bosses and big polluters”. Prime minister Boris Johnson retorted by blaming Corbyn for “insisting upon more dither” and a delay to Brexit. The EU is to explore the option of creating a central authority to crack down on money laundering after a series of high-profile scandals exposed Europe’s weaknesses in preventing the flow of dirty money through its banks. Finance ministers are expected to formally mandate the European Commission to make recommendations on a new “independent body” with “direct powers”, according to a draft statement to be endorsed when they meet in December. (£) Donald Trump’s top Russia adviser will today give testimony to the impeachment inquiry in Congress. Tim Morrison is a key witness for the investigation, which will seek to establish whether Trump used the power of his office to persuade the Ukrainian government to launch investigations aimed at damaging his political opponents. Morrison announced yesterday that he would be leaving his post imminently.
Business and economy
Apple announced record fourth-quarter sales last night, beating Wall Street forecasts despite a tail-off in demand for its all-important iPhones in the last quarter. The company’s shares initially rose by 2.3%, putting it on course to retake its position as the world’s largest public company today. (£) Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced yesterday that the social networking site will stop accepting political adverts in an effort to level the playing field. He said that the reach of such messages “should be earned, not bought”. Rival Facebook recently ruled out a ban on political ads. UK car production fell by 3.8% in September as a result of political uncertainty at home and weaker overseas demand, according to the industry’s trade body. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said overall car output for the year-to-date plunged 15.6%, making it the weakest three quarters since 2011.
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 ended up 0.34% yesterday, following a tumultuous day for shares. The FTSE 250, which is arguably more reflective of the UK’s domestic market performance, was down 0.26% at close of play. Meanwhile, Sterling was steady against the dollar after MPs voted on Tuesday to set a general election for 12 December, in effect kicking the Brexit vote back to the electorate. The currency, recently trading flat at $1.29, is on track for its best monthly performance in six years, after strengthening 5.9% against the dollar in October. But a further delay is likely to limit the chances of another rebound in the currency before the end of this year. Against the euro it was up 0.04% at €1.16. Across the pond and the Federal Reserve decision to cut interest rates for a third consecutive meeting was having a welcome impact on Wall Street’s equities benchmark. The S&P 500 closed 0.3% higher on Wednesday, having been down 0.2% prior to the Fed’s decision announcement. The Nasdaq Composite also rose 0.3%. Still, Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell remained cautious. Although this rate cut was justified by uncertainty in the global economic outlook, a tentative US-China trade deal and reduced risk of no-deal means that the Central Bank might be done with easing monetary policy for now.
Whats happening today?
Argos Resources Block Energy P. Go-Ahead Maxcyte (Di)
UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) GFK Consumer Confidence
Intl. economic announcements
(07:00) Retail Sales (GER) (10:00) Unemployment Rate (EU) (10:00) GDP (Preliminary) (EU) (12:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US) (12:30) Personal Spending (US) (12:30) Personal Income (US) (12:30) Continuing Claims (US) (13:45) Chicago PMI (US)
Columns of note
Philip Stephens argues that the 1989 promise of liberal democracy was a squandered opportunity in this morning’s Financial Times. The collapse of the Berlin Wall brought, amongst other things, a general feeling of optimism. Democracy, political pluralism and open markets were the flavours of the day; only to be later squandered by “those intoxicated with their apparent triumph”. The 2008 global financial crash and subsequent recession delivered a shattering blow to rich democracies. But the real damage was less economic, more political. The rise of populists exposed a fundamental divide: “the elites had grown richer at the expense of the majority”. (£) Lucy Denyer weighs in on Samira Ahmed’s pay tribunal in the Telegraph. She argues that it is reasonable for Ahmed – comparatively less famous and the star of a programme with fewer viewers – to be paid less than Jeremy Vine. The real question is: why is she less famous? She started her career at the same time, and possesses the same drive and ambition. Perhaps, the problem is not in pay, in this instance, but in a systemic problem with the BBC “boys club” whereby women are denied opportunity for progression and, subsequently, inflated pay packets. (£)
Did you know?
In 1951, Dr. William L. Davidson invented a golf ball that supposedly couldn’t be lost: it had small quantities of radioactive materials inside so that “if you carry a portable Geiger counter, you can locate it even in dense woods”.
House of Commons Oral questions Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (including Topical Questions) Church Commissioners and House of Commons Commission and Public Accounts Commission and Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission Business Statement Business Questions to the Leader of the House – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg Debate Tributes to the Speaker's Chaplain – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg General debate Spending on children's services Adjournment Implementation of housing succession policy by local authorities and housing associations – Rushanara Ali House of Lords Oral questions Demands of Extinction Rebellion – Lord Dubs Co-ordination of joint engagement on foreign affairs with EU member states – Baroness Northover Ensuring vulnerable pregnant women in prison have access to good quality healthcare and are safe – Baroness Hussein-Ece Gender pay gap for people in their 50s – Baroness Burt of Solihull Debate Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry – Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Government’s international development work to promote the sustainable use of natural resources and prevent biodiversity loss – Lord McInnes of Kilwinning Scottish Parliament First Minister’s Questions Members’ Business S5M-19293 Alex Cole-Hamilton: Hong Kong Portfolio Questions Ministerial Statement The Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions Annual Target Report for 2017 Scottish Government Debate Centenary of the 1919 Forestry Act
House of Commons No business scheduled.
House of Lords No business scheduled.
Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.