Charlotte Street Partners



Remote control

Written by Ralitsa Bobcheva, associate 
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
1 February 2021

Good morning,

The year is 2012 and the place is northern Moscow. A tall man with blond hair addresses 80,000 people gathered as part of the biggest anti-government demonstration Russia had seen since the fall of the Soviet Union. 
“Who’s the power here?” he asks a crowd bubbling with excitement. 
“We are!” the assembled masses shout in reply.

The man is Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader whose jailing two weeks ago prompted a wave of demonstrations across the country and the detention of 261 protesters last week. Over the past decade, Navalny has grown in prominence through organising a series of anti-government movements, culminating in the posting to YouTube of an investigation accusing the president, Vladimir Putin, of corruption relating to the ownership of a £1bn Black Sea residence – an allegation Putin has dismissed. 
Analysts of the socio-political climate in Russia have highlighted key factors that distinguish the current anti-government movement from previous demonstrations. Chief among them is that the opposition has now found a clear leader in Navalny and he has become influential despite bypassing traditional media channels.
Confined to a cell, Navalny is proving that he doesn’t need to be physically present and ‘visible’ to inspire crowds of supporters, inspiring rallies in 100 cities and towns across Russia by harnessing the power of digital media as an alternative communication space.
A similar formula was applied in the anti-government demonstrations which swept Belarus and Bulgaria last summer, with digital channels playing a central role in shaping public opinion in both instances. While fundamentally different in scope and context, all three movements took hold in countries notorious for their limited freedom of speech, with state-controlled mass media stifling voices of protest. 
Alexei Navalny is considered by many to be the greatest threat to Putin’s government to date, although we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the Kremlin is entirely inexperienced in playing online games. What would appear to be true, however, is that in a world growing more digital by the second, controlling traditional media no longer guarantees strongman leaders control of hearts and minds.   


International trade secretary Liz Truss has said that the UK may help the EU and other nations with coronavirus vaccine supplies before the domestic vaccination programme has been completed. UK government ministers have tried to smooth relations with the EU over its decision to impose a vaccine border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Myanmar’s military has taken control of the country after detaining the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other politicians over claims that there were “huge discrepancies” in November’s election. A state of emergency has been declared for one year, according to military-owned TV, and power has been handed to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing.
Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have waged a “genocidal war” in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to the region’s ex-leader Debretsion Gebremichael. The conflict began in November, after the ousted leader’s forces captured Ethiopian government military bases in Tigray. The Ethiopian government denied his claims and deemed him guilty of “horrendous crimes”. 

Business and economy

The UK government is set to formally apply to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade pact between Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, will ask to join the CPTPP today, with negotiations expected to start later this year.
The Confederation of British Industry has written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng asking him to consult the country’s private sector on how to reopen the economy post-lockdown. The letter calls for the government to outline six elements when drawing up its lockdown exit strategy, including what will be considered high or low risk economic activity and whether there will be a return to tiered restrictions.
Prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak are preparing a pre-Budget recovery plan, outlining proposals to boost investment and skills to rebuild the UK economy as it emerges from the coronavirus crisis. The plan is expected to be published in the week starting February 22, 10 days before the chancellor is due to outline the next Budget. (£)
Arcadia’s Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands have been sold to online retailer Asos in a deal worth £295m. The deal includes the stock and the brands but excludes approximately 70 physical high street stores, and will see only 300 of 1,300 Arcadia employees transferred to Asos.

Columns of note

In The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert turns to Joe Biden’s second batch of executive orders last week, including a number of sweeping climate directives. With politicians in Washington having not only avoided acting on climate change but also talking about it recently, Biden’s administration will also need to address the lack of adequate discourse on the threat of climate change in order to succeed, Kolbert argues. (£)
In the Financial TimesMartin Sandbu sheds light on opportunities and pitfalls facing the EU on its path to building a thriving digital economy. While EU technology regulation is moving in the right direction, Sandbu argues that fragmented capital markets are holdingtech companies within the bloc back. (£)

Cartoon source: The Times


The week ahead

In the US, President Biden will see the state of the labour market he inherited with the release of the monthly jobs report.
Big tech and online retailers will be front and centre of company news this week, with updates from Amazon, eBay and Alphabet, the latter of which is expected to break the $50bn sales barrier after a period of recovery in digital ad spending during the holiday season. 
Two pharma groups – Pfizer and GSK – are also due to report financial results, joined by Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Ryanair. Carmaker Ford Motor, which is undergoing a large scale restructuring, is expected to take a fourth-quarter hit after suspending its Brazilian manufacturing operations.  

What’s happening today?


Hargreaves Lansdown

JP Morgan

UK economic announcements
(09:30) M4 Money Supply
(09:30) Consumer Credit
(09:30) Mortgage Approvals
(09:30) PMI Manufacturing

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Retail Sales (GER)
(08:55) PMI Manufacturing (GER)
(09:00) PMI Manufacturing (EU)
(10:00) Unemployment Rate (EU)
(14:45) PMI Manufacturing (US)
(15:00) Construction Spending (US)
(15:00) ISM Manufacturing (US)
(20:30) Auto Sales (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

Russia’s greatest museum, The Hermitage, is home to around 70 cats, which guard its treasures against rodents. (Source: The Telegraph)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Defence (including Topical Questions)
Opposition Day Debate
Protecting tenants and leaseholders from unsafe cladding – Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner, Thangam Debbonaire, Mike Amesbury, Steve Reed, Mr Nicholas Brown
Opposition Day Debate
Covid security at UK borders – Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner, Nick Thomas-Symonds, Jim McMahon, Holly Lynch, Mr Nicholas Brown
Cultural centres and sporting facilities in North West Durham – Mr Richard Holden

House of Lords 

Lord Godson and Lord Hannan of Kingsclere
Oral questions
Iraqi interpreters working with foreign militaries targeted by militia groups and protections for interpreters working with UK Armed Forces – Baroness Coussins
Oral questions
Celebrating the World Health Organization’s International Year of Health and Care Workers in 2021 – Lord Crisp
Oral questions
Dunlop Review into UK Government Union capability – Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
Oral questions
Impact of the end of the Brexit transition period on the logistics industry in the UK – Baroness Randerson
Private Notice Question
What plans the government have to ensure that the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is delivered to patients within 12 weeks of receiving the first dose – Baroness Thornton
Domestic Abuse Bill – committee stage (day 3) – Baroness Williams of Trafford

Scottish Parliament 

No business scheduled

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