Still damp and shivering from this weekends torrents, Aidan Reid compares his blind optimism for sunshine to the new UK governments determination to delivery Brexit, in spite of the gloomy forecast.
I truly believed that it wasn’t going to rain at the festival I attended on Saturday. Not just hoped, but steadfastly and stubbornly believed. This was in spite of my experience of previous outdoor events and the forecasts of BBC Weather, a grey stormy cartoon cloud hanging over roughly where I’d be spending the day and a 96% chance of rain predicted. Still, t-shirt weather it should be, so a t-shirt and newish white trainers were chosen for the day’s activities. This kind of optimism, of tunnel vision faith in the face of evidence to the contrary, is probably not what you need from a political leader during a time of several national crises. It is one thing to find your t-shirt soaked and your new shoes covered in mud, quite another to possibly condemn entire industries and towns to decline with a hey ho, let's go. Yet optimism has taken a kicking in recent times, becoming yet another point of 52-48 division. We are now in a situation where on one side are those who would have us strolling confidently forward, however outlandish that appears, ignoring the naysayers and plundering what’s ours from the world. On the other, we are told that we need to be gripping ourselves to reality, accepting the doom and gloom and taking a long hard look at ourselves and how we treaded down this path. That your attitude, never mind your politics, is now characterised by the divisions of current events cannot be a good thing. And, for what seems like every issue in UK society right now, room needs to exist for compromise. Despite the mud and dripping from head to toe, I still had a fantastic time in a field alongside friends at Butefest, at one point dancing side to side to a song whose lyrics largely consisted of “bouncy ball”. If life circumstances permit, you can remain positive while acknowledging the disaster around you. It is perfectly legitimate to fear a certain path if it is chosen, and its impact on the most vulnerable in society, but to still believe, overall, that things will work out better than forecast or that we will just have to get on with it. There is also room for anger and sadness at how we got here, and as well as hope that a resolution can and will be found. In the ever-changing political landscape, whoever finds that niche could even find themselves in 10 Downing Street at some point.
Talks took place over the weekend between officials from leading European nations, China and senior Iranian officials over recent confrontations in the Gulf and preserving the Iran nuclear agreement. The talks are said to have been “constructive”, though they come as the country’s uranium enrichment programme has recommenced. A panel formed by South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has come out in favour of land seizures in certain circumstances. It argued that the current divisions of land ownership on largely racial lines needed to be challenged and that the government should intervene where land is held for speculative purposes or by absentee landlords. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, makes his first visit to Scotland since his leadership victory. He is expected to meet both Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, and hold talks with first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, as part of a “charm offensive”, with £300m of additional funds proposed for the devolved nations. It comes as Davidson reiterated her opposition to a no-deal Brexit, insisting that, unlike members of the UK cabinet, she is not obligated to back one. Protests recommenced in Hong Kong, leading to violent clashes between police and pro-democracy activists. Tens of thousands took to the streets, calling for greater protections of democracy and of Hong Kong self-rule, in what marked the eighth consecutive weekend that protests had taken place.
Business & Economy
Sports Direct has claimed that the issues facing House of Fraser are “nothing short of terminal” after further delays to the publication of the sports firm’s annual results. The company revealed that these delays were the result of processing a €674m tax bill being levied by Belgian authorities on the department store firm it now owns. Just Eat has revealed it is in talks to be taken over by Dutch company Takeaway.com. The proposals would see the formation of a company whose combined worth is estimated at £9bn and follows pressure earlier in the year from Just Eat shareholders for the company to merge with a rival. The US president, Donald Trump, has claimed on Twitter that his government will pursue a “substantial reciprocal action” response to the French government’s plans to create a digital tax for large tech giants. It followed the publication of revised GDP figures which saw US economic growth revised downward for 2018 to 2.5%.
The week ahead
In the US, the sluggish growth rate announcement on Friday is likely to have less of an impact than in normal circumstances. Instead, the focus will swiftly move onto the Federal Reserve Bank, which will announce its decision on interest rates on Wednesday. It is excepted to announce a rate cut for the first time in a decade. Whether it will be sufficient to continue to drive jobs growth remains to be seen. The July employment statistics are published on Friday. In company news, the third quarter results for Apple are expected to be positive.
Looking to the UK, the Bank of England’s publication of its latest economic forecasts on Thursday are expected to be framed with recent political events in mind. The increased likelihood of a no-deal Brexit may lead to a further cut in growth predictions. In what will be a big week for banking, Lloyds, CYBG and Barclays report on their finances on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday respectively.
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Columns of Note
Instantaneous communication may not be the boon it was once thought of, according to Jonathan Rauch of the Atlantic. He highlights how the ability of individuals to instantly upload content to their heart’s content had led to disturbing images and videos, like that distributed after the Christchurch massacre, to be constantly re-uploaded even after originally being taken down. The merits of “old media” and its editorial standards are advocated, and he argues that people should be empowered to adopt this editorial role by being given a ten-minute window between posting and their social media utterance going live. This could give some time for fact checkers to evaluate it but, more importantly for him, give people time for “thought” about what they were posting and whether it represented their real views. With the heat rising across Europe, so James Dennison argues in the Guardian does the pressure on traditional political parties to adapt to environmental politics. Highlighting that the European elections were the most successful for green parties ever, he attributes this to more voters (14% now compared to 6% in 2015) identifying environmental issues as a key motivator for how they vote. He also argues that these parties have benefited from the decline in party political affiliation and in being able to distribute their message via non-traditional media. He concludes that any social democratic party will in future have to wear the clothing of an environmentalist party in order to succeed electorally.
Did you know?
The world’s largest music festival ever was the 2015 Donauinselfest, which takes place along the Danube river outside Vienna, Austria. It is estimated that 3.3 million people attended, and it averages over two million attendees a year.
In recess until Tuesday 3 September.
House of Lords
In recess until Tuesday 3 September.
In recess until Tuesday 3 September.