You're out of touch, I'm out of touch

Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate

Edited by Kevin Pringle, Partner

Good morning, A thought came to me yesterday as I prepared to step into my fourth freezing shower of the week – a challenge kindly delegated by my colleague, David Gaffney (see last weekend’s reading list). While bracing myself to dance my new morning jig – the one where I jump skittishly in and out of the icy deluge, gulping for air like a wounded animal, before eventually keeling over and submitting to the arctic needles as they rain piercing pain on my back – I caught sight of my reflection in the bathroom mirror. What had I become? Was I so out of touch, so desperate for ill-defined ‘wellness’, that I was prepared to reduce myself to nothing more than a quivering mess? Aside from the three brief seconds of lucidity immediately post-shower – which is naturally utilised more on bathroom admin than any quantifiable big picture thinking – I have concluded that there is no obvious benefit to shunning hot water. What’s more, I’ve wasted substantial time. Do you know how much umm-ing and ahh-ing it takes to step into a stinging cold torrent at 6.30 in the morning? And in February no less? Reassuringly, though, I’m not the only one a little out of touch with reality this week. Like me, health secretary Matt Hancock has been firmly in the pursuit of wellness – albeit for the country more generally. Tasked with stemming the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus – as well as its associated hysteria – Hancock this week urged Britons returning from quarantined Italian towns to self-isolate, even if they have no symptoms. What he failed to account for, however, was pay. The health secretary promised that workers who are confined to their homes will be entitled to statutory sick pay and that guidance had been sent to employers to this effect. So far, so true.  The trouble is, being subject to preventative quarantine is not the same as being ill, at least according to the law. In fact, your employer can send you off for two weeks on your tod with absolutely no obligation to pay you. This means employees are reliant on the goodwill of their bosses to allow working from home (all right if you’ve got an office job, less so if you’re a plumber or factory worker) or honour statutory sick pay. Still, even if employers are so kind as to grant statutory sick pay, it only kicks in after four days, after which all you’re getting is a measly £94.25 per week. Two weeks off would mean a paycheck of just £188.50. That’s about a quarter of the minimum income required to live, forgetting for a second about children and dependents. The only solution for many then, is to plough on, go into work and take their chances – a harsh reality not particularly conducive to stemming the spread of a potentially major pandemic, you’ll agree.    So, there’s a lesson here for Matt and me. What may seem sensible to you is not sensible, or even plausible, for everyone. Different perspectives are integral to good decision-making.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m rounding off the week with a nice hot shower, courtesy of your friend and mine: common sense.


The coronavirus has now reached more than 50 countries and territories outside mainland China, with over 83,000 global cases recorded and at least 2,800 deaths. Three more people in the UK were diagnosed with the virus yesterday, including Northern Ireland’s first confirmed case. Meanwhile, experts have warned of school closures and the cancellation of sporting events, concerts and festivals. According to England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, transmission of the virus between people in the UK is “just a matter of time”. Britain’s flood-hit communities have been warned to brace themselves as storm Jorge is set to dump between 50 and 80mm of rain on parts of Wales and northern England on Friday. The Met Office’s chief meteorologist said further flooding is possible. At least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in Syria following an airstrike on Idlib on Thursday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The strikes were allegedly fired by the Syrian government in response to Turkey-backed opposition forces recapturing the strategic town of Saraqeb earlier in the day. Turkey is reported to have retaliated against the regime in the early hours of this morning, although the impact is so far unknown.

Business and economy

Business leaders have voiced alarm at the ruling that plans for a third runway at Heathrow are illegal, urging the government to continue to back expansion. Supporters of the planned expansion warned that jobs and trade would be jeopardised if the third runway was halted again, after court of appeal judges said ministers had insufficiently addressed climate change obligations. And now plans for a new £28.8bn roads programme could also face challenge in the courts for breaching the UK’s laws on climate change. Due to be published next month, the plans don’t take into account commitments on reducing emissions and will likely face legal opposition from environmentalists. The government has dashed hopes among the self-employed that it would reconsider a crackdown on tax avoidance linked to off-payroll workers. Off-payroll working rules, known as IR35, are designed to tackle so-called disguised employment – the term for people who provide freelance services through personal service companies, but who the tax authorities believe should be treated as employees. (£)

Columns of note

In the Telegraph, Jemima Lewis argues that the modern world makes it impossible to be perfectly virtuous. Lewis describes the hypocrisy of George Clooney, the Hollywood heart throb, activist and long-time ‘global ambassador’ of Nespresso; a company recently exposed for exploiting child labour in Guatemala. Still, Lewis feels for Clooney; because, in this age of complex global capitalism, we are all hypocrites. Living virtuously – an arduous task under any circumstances – is next to impossible when everything you eat, drink, wear and do depends on incredibly complicated supply chains. An argument for humility, not apathy, Lewis believes virtue is a delusion. (£) Writing in the New Yorker, Samanth Subramanian tells of how the Indian government watched Delhi burn. Two things happened in Delhi this week: Donald Trump concluded a two-day visit with a lavish ceremonial dinner while, just half a dozen miles away, northeast Delhi was engulfed in violence. At least 38 people have died after a winter of violent protest against a new citizenship law that promises fast-tracked Indian citizenship to Pakistani, Afghan, and Bangladeshi refugees of every major South Asian faith except Islam. Meanwhile, the Navy band played Can You Feel the Love Tonight at the Trump banquet. (£)

Source: Financial Times


What happened yesterday? Global investors were hit with a sixth day of stock market losses on Thursday as the “worst week since the financial crisis” continued with vigour. Traders have been increasingly nervous about the spread of coronavirus and its impact on supply chains. A string of declines pushed major indices in Europe and the US into the red by more than 10% from their recent highs – sending them into so-called “correction” territory. The FTSE 100 closed at a new one-year low, losing another £61bn. The blue-chip index ended down 246 points, or 3.5%, at 6,796. This means that the FTSE has shed eight per cent of its value, or £150bn, this week alone. European stock markets also had a grim day, with the Stoxx 600 closing 3.6% down at 390.89 points, illustrating again that the coronavirus outbreak has replaced the trade war as the dark storm bearing on markets. The issue is no longer confined to Asia and markets are starting to consider what this means for global trade and travel. Still, streaming service Netflix managed to defy the sell-off, jumping 2.3%. Investors believe that the company could profit from coronavirus, as more people are confined to their homes or afraid to venture out to the cinema. On the currency markets, the pound was down 0.25% against the dollar at $1.29, and flat against the euro at €1.17.

What's happening today?

Finals CRH Dev Clever Hol. Foxtons Glenveagh Jupiter Fund Management London Stock Exchange Rolls-Royce Holdings

AGMs Finsbury Growth Green Smart Merian Chrys. UK economic announcements (00:01) GFK Consumer Confidence (07:00) Nationwide House Price Index Int. economic announcements (07:00) Import Price Index (GER) (08:55) Unemployment Rate (GER) (13:30) Personal Consumption Expenditures (US) (13:30) Personal Spending (US) (13:30) Personal Income (US) (14:45) Chicago PMI (US) (15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (US)

Source: Financial Times

Did you know?

Room 101, the infamous torture chamber in Orwell's 1984, is named after a conference room at BBC Broadcasting House, where Orwell would have to sit through tortuously boring meetings.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons No business scheduled. House of Lords No business scheduled. Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.