Charlotte Street Partners



Bearing comparison

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate
Edited by Adam Shaw, associate partner
25 March 2022

Good morning,

The Laurel and Hardy short film The Battle of the Century contains cinema’s greatest custard pie fight. In it is an indispensable trope of genre: the indignant authority figure, who storms in to stop the fight only to become a custard-covered combatant within seconds.

In related news, Nicola Sturgeon has offered her analysis of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and why it all comes back to Scottish independence.

To the SNP leadership, stoked on a sense of responsibility, crass comparisons were anathema when the invasion began. SNP MSP Michelle Thomson was compelled to apologise after comparing Ukrainian and Scottish ambitions for EU accession. After party president and ex-minister Mike Russell drew parallels between Ukraine and – in his view – Scotland’s struggle for independence, his boss insisted there was “no connection” between the two.

To be fair to Sturgeon, Boris Johnson’s absurd comparison of Ukraine’s struggle with Brexit has set a new low for analysis of the invasion. Sturgeon’s custard pie of commentary is a little more subtle. Putin despises liberal democratic institutions that secure prosperity, she argues. Prosperity is low in the UK but better in Scotland. It could be even better if Scotland were independent. “And” she concludes “our European partners know […] they can depend on an independent Scotland as a beacon of peace and democracy”.

You could be forgiven for finding this a little bit contrived. Amid the shock of Russia’s invasion, the SNP first proved reasonable and strongly anti-Putin. Internally, that’s been hard to maintain. The party’s continuing commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament is hard to square with Sturgeon’s newfound hawkishness.

Externally, Ukraine causes problems for the SNP’s hopes of a successful independence referendum next year. The two polls on independence since the invasion show No pulling ahead. This may be nothing. But could it portend that, in a less certain world, independence is less appealing? Amid global crisis, it’s harder for voters and the international community to believe your support for Nato while you seek to break up one of its leading members.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appalled and united political leaders. Now, however, Ukraine’s strife risks becoming merely an illustrative tool for the comment cycle. The custard pie fight of “politics as normal” has recommenced.


President Zelensky of Ukraine has addressed Nato leaders via videoconference. Zelensky argued for Ukrainian membership of the EU. He also thanked Germany for cancelling the Nordstream 2 oil pipeline but said the move was “a little late”.

The UK government is encouraging elderly people to get a “spring booster” Covid vaccination. Figures show more elderly people are in hospital with Covid in England than at the height of the Omicron wave. The admission rate for every 100,000 people over the age of 85 was 178.29 in the week to 20 March, compared with 158.43 at the turn of the year.

The UK government has promised 300,000 public charge points for electric vehicles by the end of the decade, According to the Department for Transport, £500m will be invested to hit the target. Currently, there are only 30,000 publicly available charge points in the UK.

Business and economy

Think tanks, including the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation, have criticised as ineffective Rishi Sunak’s spring statement, delivered on Wednesday. Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said the chancellor “prioritised rebuilding his tax-cutting credentials over supporting the low- to middle-income households who will be hardest hit from the surging cost of living”.

The UK’s largest dairy, Arla, has warned milk supply could be under threat unless wages increase. The company’s managing director, Ash Amirahmadi, warned costs were rising and farmers were producing less milk.

P&O chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite was yesterday questioned by a joint session of the House of Commons’ transport and business select committees. The session came a week after his company sacked all of its 800 UK employees. Hebblethwaite confirmed new staff, hired from agencies, were being paid at the UK minimum wage: between £5.15 and £6 an hour.

Columns of note

Paoli, Washington, Bolívar, Garibaldi, Wałęsa: every so often a country’s charismatic leader charms the outside world while standing up for freedom. Volodymyr Zelensky now seems to fit the mould. Yet, David A Bell argues in the New Statesman, admiration should stop short of hero-worship. Even leaders engaged in a struggle against oppression deserve scrutiny while they receive support. (£)

“It is as if EastEnders and Coronation Street were replaced with 200 minutes of state propaganda.” That’s how Jade McGlynn describes Russian television. In the Spectator, McGlynn looks at what this content is like and why so many Russians, despite having access to alternative news sources, choose to believe its message. (£)


What happened yesterday?

US markets are refocussing on monetary policy after the shock of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Wall Street, the S&P500 gained one per cent by the afternoon while the Nasdaq Composite had added 1.2% by the end of the day. In Europe, though, the invasion’s effects are still pronounced, with the regional Stoxx 600 index down 0.2% on Thursday: seven per cent lower for the year.

The pound was trading at 1.20 euros and at 1.32 dollars.

What’s happening today?

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Final results
Faron Pharma

Int. economic announcements
(09:00) M3 Money Supply (EU)
(14:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (US)
(09:00) IFO Expectations (GER)
(14:00) Pending Homes Sales (US)
(09:00) IFO Business Climate (GER)
(09:00) IFO Current Assessment (GER) 

UK economics announcements
(00:01) GFK Consumer Confidence
(07:00) Retail Sales

Source: Financial Times

did you know

Of Great Britain’s 20 busiest railway stations, only three are not in London. The busiest outside London is Leeds at 14th place.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

The House of Commons is not sitting. The House will next sit on 28 March 2022.

Scottish parliament 

No business scheduled

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