About a fence
Written by Katie Stanton, Associate Partner
Edited by Kevin Pringle, Partner
Ah, the fence.
We all sit there sometimes, not because we like the view, but because we are thinking or we are scared, and we know the consequences. To pick a side is to fall off the fence: we’re going to get hurt, and our relationship with the other side of the fence will splinter beyond repair.
So, we wait it out, crotch ablaze with the discomfort of teetering on a hunk of coarse cedar, until eventually the enticing heat of the moment wanes, people stop caring and, after a quick scan of the perimeter, we can softly dismount and sleuth back to wherever we came from.
But in moments of scrutiny, it’s not an easy place to be; it’s visible, binary and, ultimately, beige.
It is why leadership is so particularly challenging, the fence usually being the uncertain paradox between doing what we believe in the moment to be ethically or personally just, and thinking strategically about the long-term: the future wellbeing and security of organisation, country or economy.
And leaders aren’t really allowed to sit on them, at least not for any length of time.
They face fence after fence – like the gardens behind terraced houses, invariable hurdles stretching out into the distance – and they jump them, rapid fire. A health crisis, global economic catastrophe, supply chain breakdowns, a rethink on public spending, Brexit and trade negotiations, systemic racial inequality, a cashflow crisis, political turmoil in Hong Kong, and then of course the general day-to-day operation of keeping people happy and well.
Granted, quick decisions are sometimes necessary and right in moments of crisis. But we are now so accustomed to treating every issue with this same searing urgency that leaders are resigned to fire off solutions that might be slap-dash or short-sighted.
We have become averse to the ambiguity of the fence, so totally adamant on having a decision and having it now, that we perhaps don’t give them (or ourselves, for that matter) any time to just think – or rather not think, but listen to the experts and come to more considered conclusions.
If we agree that our choices are no longer as simple as choose-that-garden-or-the-other, then maybe it’s time to rebrand the fence. Maybe it’s okay to take a second (or 21 seconds, if you are Justin Trudeau) to linger in the grey area, to not know for sure, or to not have an opinion for the moment.
After all, weakness and vulnerability are not antithetical to good leadership – fluffing a decision because you don’t give yourself the time and space to reflect is.
Police are appealing for the public’s help in solving the Madeleine McCann case, after they announced that a child sex offender was the latest suspect. The German man, who has not been named, is currently serving a prison sentence. He is believed to have been living a transient lifestyle in the area where Madeleine was last seen when she disappeared in Portugal 13 years ago.
The former US defence secretary James Mattis has accused Trump of trying “to divide us” and of abusing his authority. In rare public comments, Mattis said he was “angry and appalled” by Trump’s handling of recent protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody. Trump retorted via Twitter: “glad he’s gone!”
The UK government is struggling to rebuild stockpiles of drugs eroded by Covid-19 amid fears that a “no-deal” Brexit will jeopardise medicine supplies just as a second coronavirus wave could hit the country. (£)
Business and economy
HSBC and Standard Chartered have given their backing to China’s new security laws for Hong Kong. Both banks made statements saying that the proposed law can help maintain long-term stability in the territory. It is unusual for a bank to intervene in political issues, particularly one as controversial as these laws which many – including prime minister Boris Johnson – feel could mark the end of Hong Kong’s freedoms.
The Bank of England will today name 60 businesses, including several of the country’s 20 biggest, that have accessed the state for £19bn of coronavirus corporate financing, a cheap loan scheme for non-financial companies in need of case. The list will raise questions about whether multinationals, many of which use legitimate tax avoidance schemes to increase their profits, should be subjected to tougher anti-avoidance measures or banned from the scheme altogether. (£)
The US will bar Chinese passenger carriers from flying to the United States from 16 June, in a move designed to pressure Beijing into allowing US air carriers to resume flights.
Columns of note
Writing inThe Scotsman, United Nations’ Under-Secretary-General, Grete Faremo, argues that as countries recover from the coronavirus pandemic, we should focus on creating a more sustainable and inclusive way of life. As well as working to understand the many challenges this crisis presents, governments and enterprises should now look to the opportunities and begin to plan proactively beyond recovery, to do their bit for climate action and the sustainable development goals.
Evan Osnos offers powerful first-hand experience of the protests in Washington DC in theNew Yorker. In particular, he expertly picks apart Trump’s toting of sacred symbols – such as the recent photo op with a Bible – which he uses as props or staging, demonstrating nothing more than a crude simulation of personal understanding. (£)
Source: Evening Standard
What happened yesterday?
Global stocks climbed and yields on longer-term US and German government debt rose yesterday as investors pinned their hopes on a swift rebound for economies rocked by the coronavirus pandemic. The UK’s FTSE 100 rose 2.6%, with investors anticipating more stimulus packages from central banks. The European benchmark Stoxx 600 was also up 2.5%. In company news: The owner of Frankie & Benny’s will permanently close 120 restaurants, with 3,000 job losses expected, as it accelerates plans to restructure under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. Warner Music floated yesterday, with shares jumping 20.5% upon their Wall Street debut, valuing the world’s third largest music group at about $15.4bn. (£) Marks and Spencer has cut share awards for its two top executives this year because of a sharp fall in the value of the company’s stock. (£) Total is to acquire a majority stake in a £3bn North Sea renewable energy project from UK utility SEE, marking the French oil major’s first significant move into offshore wind. The chief executive of Lufthansa yesterday admitted that the group’s €9bn bailout package from the German government is larger than what it needs to survive, and is designed to ensure the airline maintains a “global leading position”. (£)
What's happening today?
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) PMI Construction
Int. Economic Announcements
(00:00) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(10:00) Retail Sales (EU)
(12:45) ECB Interest Rate (EU)
(13:30) Balance of Trade (US)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
Did you know?
The word oxymoron is from the Greek, oxys meaning sharp, and mōros meaning foolish making it an oxymoron.
House of Commons
Digital, culture, media and sport (including topical questions)
Sentencing (pre-consolidation amendments) Bill [HL]: remaining stages
The EU’s mandate for negotiating a new partnership with the UK
Restoration of canals – Craig Williams
House of Lords
Government action to close any educational gaps arising from the school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic - virtual proceeding - Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
National preparedness to respond to the key risks identified in the National Risk Register - virtual proceeding - Lord Harris of Haringey
Preventing 18 to 25 year olds becoming child sex predators online - virtual proceeding - Baroness Benjamin
Number of obese and overweight people dying from COVID-19 - Baroness Jenkin of Kennington
The economic lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures necessary to repair the UK economy - virtual proceeding - Lord Eatwell
Impact on human rights in Hong Kong of the national security legislation proposed in the National People’s Congress of China - Baroness Anelay of St Johns
Portfolio questions (virtual)
Social security and older people
Environment, climate change and land reform