Charlotte Street Partners



À droite but not adroit

Written by  Charles Clegg, senior associate 
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner
16 March 2021

Good morning,

Nobody does a culture war like the French. This, bien sur, is the home of the Dreyfus affair, which, from 1894, split the country over whether a Jewish army officer had been a spy. He hadn’t. The conflict set the pattern for culture wars: the partisans were divided not by the facts of the case but by their reactions to Dreyfus’ religion. In 2021, the line cut by the Dreyfus affair can still be traced; though which side president Emmanuel Macron is on remains an open question.

In 2017, the young president swept to power with a centrist, reformist agenda. For many voters of the left and the centre-right, his La République En Marche! party was an acceptable rallying point against an unpalatable alternative: Marine Le Pen. Le Pen, leader of the far-right Rassemblement National, is likely to face Macron again in next year’s presidential election. Recent polling shows Macron would lead Le Pen by only 53% to 47% in a face-off.

In an attempt to increase that gap, Macron’s government has tacked right on the country’s perennial debate on the place of Islam. The real danger, according to France’s higher education minister, Frédérique Vidal, is “Islamo-leftism” in universities. Motivated by the beheading last October of schoolteacher Samuel Paty, France has brought forward legislation to bolster security and tackle Islamic “separatism”. Such laws have a disproportionate effect on France’s Muslim population. Macron’s hard-line interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, sees such targeted enforcement of assimilation as popular and necessary: a bulwark against Le Pen.

On another divisive issue, France’s historic abuses in Algeria, Macron’s position is less clear. His government has recently committed to release historic military records and has admitted to the torture and murder of nationalist, Ali Boumendjel. Macron, however, avoids talk of a general apology or reparations. On this issue too, observers see Macron’s former liberalism hardening into defensiveness.

France’s run-off electoral system does, however, mean a contest between Macron and Le Pen may never happen. An unexpected outsider could, in the year we have left until the election, disrupt the anticipated duel: just as Macron did in 2017. Although Macron’s strategy may never face an electoral test, it could still have results.

France’s third republic was stricken by the divisions of the Dreyfus affair. In 1940, this weakened body politic perished quickly. By reopening old wounds, France’s government is risking long-term damage for short-term gain.


The World Health Organisation has urged countries not to pause their use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The WHO claims there is no evidence of a link between the vaccine and blood clotting. The announcement comes as several countries, led by Germany, have suspended use of the vaccine over purported risks of blood clotting.

A review of the UK government’s defence and foreign policy has been leaked. The document identifies Russia as a major threat but China as only a “competitor”. The document also announces the removal of the cap on the number of nuclear warheads held by the UK.

The UK government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has met with criticism from some MPs on its first day in the Commons. Former home secretary and prime minister, Theresa May, was among MPs who raised concerns about the bill. She claimed its definitions of noise and nuisance as grounds to restrict protests are too wide and could impinge on civil liberties. (£)

Business and economy

Facebook has agreed to pay NewsCorp for the right to share journalism from its local titles. The undisclosed deal comes weeks after Australia passed a law requiring tech giants, including Facebook, to pay for news content.


Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has written to the UK government, calling on them to provide greater support for financial services now that the UK has left the EU. Khan wants UK financial regulations to be compatible with those of the EU. While this remains under discussion, such parity presently seems unlikely.


Some of China’s biggest tech companies, including ByteDance and Tencent, have been attempting to circumvent Apple’s privacy rules and to continue tracking iPhone users. The revelation comes ahead of planned changes to Apple’s privacy settings, which could restrict such activity. (£)

Columns of note

In the Guardian, David Spiegelhalter looks at why countries have over-reacted to safety claims about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Spiegelhalter shows how it is a natural human tendency to link unrelated occurrences. He contrasts this to the scientific method, which, as applied in vaccine trials, showed no increased risk of blood clotting. Spiegelhalter argues increased education about the scientific method could help tackle such knee-jerk reactions.


In the Times, Jawad Iqbal asks why anyone would pay millions of dollars for art that only exists online. The trend for online only works is taking the art world by storm: last week, digital artist, Beeple, sold a single jpeg for £50 million. Iqbal notes how most trading in digital art is done in cryptocurrency and, as such, the art world, obsessed with money over aesthetics, is sitting on a bubble. (£)

Cartoon source: Daily Telegraph


What happened yesterday?

In US markets, the S&P 500 index rose 0.6%, motivated by sales of shares in larger businesses including Apple. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose a little over one per cent.

Europe’s Stoxx 600 index closed flat while the UK’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.2%. China’s CSI 300 index closed down 2.2% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.3% and South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.3%.

The pound stands at 1.1654 against the Euro and at 1.39 against the US dollar.

In company news:

Chocolate-maker, Thorntons, has announced its decision to close all 61 of its stores, putting 600 jobs at risk. The company will continue to sell chocolate online and through other retailers.


Shares in oilfield services provider, Petrofac, tanked by 17% on Monday after the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company announced it has suspended the company’s ability to compete for contracts.


Volkswagen and BP have announced a collaboration to roll-out fast-charging points for electric vehicles across Europe.

What’s happening today?

Biopharma Cred.
Boku Inc.
Close Bros
Harworth Gp
Kazatomprom S
Krm22 Plc
Sabre Insur
Team17 Group
Wood Group (J)

Litigation Cap.
SCS Group

Trading announcements
C&C Grp

Blue Prism

Plus 500

Plus 500

Interim dividend payment date
Invesco Perp UK

Quarterly payment date
Merchants Trust

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Economic Sentiment
(10:00) ZEW Survey (EU) – Economic Sentiment
(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Current Situation
(12:30) Import and Export Price Indices (US)
(12:30) Retail Sales Less Autos (US)
(12:30) Retail Sales (US)
(13:15) Capacity Utilisation (US)
(13:15) Industrial Production (US)
(14:00) Business Inventories (US)


Source: Financial Times

did you know

The introduction of edible dormice from Hungary by Walter Rothschild in the early 20th century has resulted                                 in their becoming a pest in a 200 square mile area around Tring, Hertfordshire. 

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions

Ministerial statement
Integrated Review
Levelling Up

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: 2nd reading (Day 2)
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: Ways and Means Resolution 

Money resolution
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

House of Lords 

Oral questions

Private notice questions
Volunteering for Development Grant for Voluntary Service Overseas

Policing and the Prevention of Violence Against Women

National Security and Investment Bill – committee stage (day 3)

Scottish Parliament 

Topical questions

Ministerial statement

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee debate
Climate Change Plan

Stage 3 Proceedings
Budget (Scotland) (No. 5) Bill

Committee Announcements – Education and Skills Committee
Disabled Children and Young People (Transitions to Adulthood) (Scotland) Bill

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