Charlotte Street Partners



Ego Italiano

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate 
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner
27 January 2021

Good morning,

In 2017, the world’s oldest woman, Emma Morano, died in the Piedmontese town of Verbania at the age of 117. She had lived through 90 Italian governments. If the intervening four years are anything to go by, a 117-year-old in 2134 might at least match that record.

Yesterday, the pattern continued when Giuseppe Conte resigned as Italy’s prime minister. Two weeks ago, former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, withdrew his tiny Italia Viva party from the fragile governing coalition. Conte initially appeared secure but his loss of a majority in the Senate has precipitated his resignation. President Mattarella will now oversee the formation of a new government, be that under Conte or under someone else. Failing this, Italy goes to the polls. The right is expected to benefit from a snap election.

A truism has emerged among commentators that coronavirus exposes populists’ unreliability. Conte – who swapped a professorship for the premiership – has proven the exception. Italy, with 85,000 coronavirus deaths, has been one of the world’s hardest-hit countries. Yet, under Conte, Italy led the world in using a lockdown to tackle the virus. Voters responded: the prime minister’s popularity ratings soared to 65% and remain in the mid-50s.

At the same time, Conte, like many European leaders, has employed emergency powers to tackle the virus. Such behaviour is – putatively – at the nub of Renzi’s decision to leave the coalition government. Not that the former prime minister is getting much thanks for it: one recent poll named him Italy’s least popular politician.

Conte held steady when the Matteo Salvini’s far-right Lega left the governing coalition in August 2019. Steadiness is needed in a country facing an acute economic crisis and high Covid death rates. The situation is ongoing and there are no ready conclusions. This much, however, is clear: the country’s attempts to tackle Covid-19 and its effects have only been hindered by Renzi’s decision to leave government.

In a coalition-reliant parliamentary system like Italy’s, the benefits of co-operation and the dangers of ego are stark. They are even starker as the world tentatively emerges from a global pandemic. 


Prime minister Boris Johnson has said he is “deeply sorry for every life lost” after the UK’s Covid-19 death toll reached 100,162. This makes the UK the first country in Europe, and the fifth in the world, to record over 100,000 deaths. The prime minister also said he took “full responsibility” for the government’s actions, adding: “We truly did everything we could.”

Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, has called on the European Commission to force companies to obtain permission before they export vaccines from the EU. Spahn claimed that, amid sluggish vaccination rates across the EU, such action would ensure the EU “Europe’s fair share”. EU trade commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, has rejected the idea. Brussels are, however, considering the reintroduction of a measure to limit the export of PPE. (£)

In the US, 45 of the 50 Republican senators have voted to dismiss Donald Trump’s impeachment trial before it began. This represents a boost to the former president’s ambitions to escape conviction, which would require a two-thirds majority in the 100-seat chamber.  

Business and economy

The International Monetary Fund has claimed the UK suffered the deepest recession of any leading economy in 2020. The UK’s economy is expected to have shrunk by 10%, worse than the 9.8% projected in October. The economy is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until next year. (£)  

Private rents have fallen up to 12% in some of the UK’s largest cities. According to data from property website Rightmove, average rents in central London are down 12.4% on a year ago; followed by Edinburgh city centre, down 10%; and Manchester city centre, down 5.3%. Rents have increased in parts of northern England, as many tenants swap the city for the suburbs, the countryside, or small towns. Durham and Keighley saw average rises of 16.4% and 14.6% respectively.

MPs have slammed HSBC’s actions in Hong Kong. The bank’s chief executive, Noel Quinn, appeared before the Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday. Committee members raised the bank’s decision to freeze the accounts of pro-democracy politician, Ted Hui, as well as its apparent welcome of the Chinese government’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Quinn defended the bank’s actions, claiming it cannot choose which laws to follow.  

Columns of note

In The Times, Daniel Finkelstein argues that those who believe London can become a post-Breixt “Singapore-on-Thames” ignore the illiberal tendencies that define modern Singapore. Finkelstein looks at the political development of Lee Kuan Yew and of the country he led. While Singapore’s post-independence success make it an attractive example to advocates of capitalism, its success is also built on a high immigration and a rejection of liberal democratic norms. (£)

Protests have swept Russia in support of detained opposition leader, Alexei Navalny. The Financial Times’ FT View argues that the west needs a joint strategy to tackle Russia’s abuse of rights. While China represents the greater long-term challenge to a west-led world order, Russia is the bigger short-term threat. The EU has already offered not to impose sanctions if Navalny is released. This buys time for President Biden to lead a joint response, which would also bolster his attempts to strengthen democracy at home. (£) 

Cartoon source: The Daily Telegraph


What happened yesterday?

US stocks lost momentum: the blue-chip S&P 500 index slipped 0.15%, while the technology-focused Nasdaq Composite closed down 0.07%. Gains were stronger in Europe, where the region-wide Stoxx 600 index closed up 0.6%. Germany’s Xetra Dax rose 1.7 per cent and the FTSE 100 edged up 0.2%. 
Sterling was down 0.2% against the dollar at $1.3644 and down 0.05% against the euro at 88.88p. It earlier fell to $1.3610: its lowest against the dollar in a week. 

In company news:

Cloud computing services and the Xbox video games console have driven Microsoft’s recent success, as its shares climbed 6% in after-hours trading to $242.99. Its quarterly results show total revenue increased by 17% to $43.1 billion and net income rose by a third to $15.5 billion. (£) 
High-street stationery chain Paperchase is expected to retain 90% of its stores after a rescue deal led by a lender connected to private equity giant Permira. While there will be some redundancies, around 1,000 jobs have been safeguarded by the deal. 

What’s happening today?

Redx Pharma 

Hargreaves Serv

Trading announcements
3i Group 
Brewin Dolphin
Tullow Oil 

Aj Bell 
Critical Metal 
Lowland Inv. 
Renew Holdings 
Smiths News 

UK economic announcements 
(07:00) Retail Sales
(07:00) Public Sector Net Borrowing

Cairn Homes 

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) GFK Consumer Confidence (GER) 
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US) 
(13:30) Durable Goods Orders (US) 
(20:45) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know?

                   The northernmost point of Brazil is closer to Canada than it is to the southernmost point of Brazil. 

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions 
HM Treasury (including Topical Questions) 

Urgent question 
To ask the secretary of state for the Home Department if she will make a statement on Covid protections at the UK Border – Nick Thomas-Symonds 
To ask the secretary of state for Education if he will make a statement on the government’s plan for the reopening of educational settings – Kate Green

Environment Bill: remaining stages (Day 1)

General Committees 
Telecommunications (Security) Bill – Debate

Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee – Debate: The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 (S.I., 2021, No. 15)

Education Committee 
Oral evidence: Left behind white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee 
Oral evidence: Post-pandemic economic growth: Industrial Strategy

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation 
Oral evidence: Online harms and the ethics of data

Health and Social Care Committee 
Oral evidence: Coronavirus: lessons learnt

Justice Committee 
Oral evidence: Court Capacity, The Future of Legal Aid

Foreign Affairs Committee 
Oral evidence: Work of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

International Development Committee 
Oral evidence: Future of UK aid

House of Lords

Oral questions

Grand Committees
Orders and regulations: various

Backlog of serious criminal cases in the justice system – Lord Wolfson of Tredegar 
Skills for Jobs White Paper – Baroness Berridge

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill – committee stage (day 1) – Lord Stewart of Dirleton

EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee 
Oral evidence: Post-Brexit UK-EU Security Cooperation

COVID-19 Committee 
Oral evidence: Living online: the long-term impact on wellbeing

Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee 
Oral evidence: Post-Brexit common frameworks

Communications and Digital Committee 
Oral evidence: The future of journalism: follow-up 

Scottish Parliament

Portfolio Questions
Constitution, Europe and External Affairs
Economy, Fair Work and Culture
Education and Skills

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate
Prioritising COVID-19 Vaccination and Economic Recovery

Committee of the Whole Parliament
Stage 2 Proceedings: Pre-release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Bill
Stage 2 Proceedings: The Scottish Parliamentary Standards (Sexual Harassment and Complaints Process) Bill

Education and Skills Committee 
Oral evidence: Provision of Early Learning and Childcare (Specified Children) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020 (draft)

Finance and Constitution Committee
Oral evidence: UK Economic and Fiscal outlook

Local Government and Communities Committee 
Oral evidence: Climate Change Plan

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee
Oral evidence: Climate Change Plan
Oral evidence: Agricultural Holdings (Relinquishment and Assignation) (Application to Relevant Partnerships) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (draft) 

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