Charlotte Street Partners



Host with the most

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate
Edited by David Gaffney, partner

10 February 2022 

Good morning,

It was the picture that launched a thousand memes. On Monday, President Macron of France sat down with President Putin of Russia at opposite ends of a table that could otherwise have accommodated Gargantua’s dinner.

As Russia stations troops near the Ukrainian border, such an arrangement hardly evokes good relations. It calls to mind the breakfast table in Citizen Kane, which, across a short montage, lengthens as its occupants’ marriage falls apart.

The more-than-socially-distanced table can, in part, be explained by Putin’s paranoia about Covid. Partygate is unlikely to break at the Kremlin when Putin has kept even allies like Viktor Orban from getting too close.

But Putin has made exceptions to this rule, and these exceptions are telling. In particular, he has been happy to stand close to China’s President Xi during the Winter Olympics. Are these the optics of a new illiberal order? Perhaps.

In Macron’s case, Putin has shown that optics matter and that, to control the stage management, it helps if you own the stage. When world leaders meet, it’s the host who welcomes guests while standing at the top of steps to appear taller. It’s the host who can choose to stand to the guest’s left to be the less awkward party in a handshake.

Putin has been quite happy to let other leaders come to him. Since January 2020, he has only made three international trips. Putin’s at-distance meeting with Macron is a clear type for how he wants the Ukraine crisis to play out. Foreign leaders will seek him out, not vice versa. The West will guess at when and how, if at all, he plans to attack and no answers will be forthcoming.

This week’s conference shows Putin has Macron exactly where he wants him: at the end of a very long table.


Russia and Belarus have begun joint military exercises near the borders of Ukraine. The US has called the drills “escalatory”. Russia has already stationed 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine but denies it intends to invade.

A newly released picture shows Boris Johnson standing near two colleagues and an open bottle of champagne at a quiz on 15 December 2021. The photograph, published by the Daily Mirror, appears to show the prime minister in breach of Covid regulations. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police has announced it will interview around 50 people for “Operation Hillman”: its investigation into parties at Downing Street between May 2020 and April 2021.

Boris Johnson has told MPs the last domestic Covid rules, including the requirement for those testing positive to isolate, could be withdrawn “a full month early”. The rules had been due to end on 24 March.  

Business and economy

The GMB trade union has called on the governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, to shadow a care worker for a day. The call comes after Bailey last week urged workers to “show restraint” when asking for pay rises: a move he claimed would help minimise inflation.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has called on the government to delay increases to national insurance. The think tank argues that the change, due to come into force in April, would, along with rising inflation, increase destitutions by 30%.

The Charity Commission will review the accounts of the Captain Tom Foundation. The foundation awarded grants of £160,000 to four charities and paid out more than £162,000 in management costs in its first year. Captain Sir Tom Moore walked 100 lengths of his Bedfordshire garden at the start of lockdown, raising £33m for the NHS.

Columns of note

What is social media if not an advert for ourselves? And what is success on social media if it does not spark jealousy in others? In The Times, James Marriott argues that not only is jealousy inherent in social media but that it defines social media’s tone too. Marriott posits that “cancel culture” is often driven by social media users’ desire to take down those who advertise too readily their virtue or glamour. (£)

Do friendships become more important the older we get? In The Atlantic, Jennifer Senior reviews her own friendships in middle age. She looks at why and how we lose some friends as well as what we gain from those friendships that survive. (£)


What happened yesterday?

Stocks have risen across the globe as disturbances in the US bond market have eased. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 index rose 1.2% while the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.5%. Europe’s Stoxx 600 index rose 1.7%.

The pound was trading at 1.18 euros and at 1.35 dollars.

In company news:

Amazon has been defined as a grocery supplier by the Competition and Markets Authority, which means it must abide by the grocers’ code of practice.

John Menzies has rebuffed a £469m takeover offer by Kuwaiti rival Agility Public warehousing.

LV= has withdrawn from merger negotiations with fellow insurance mutual Royal London.

What’s happening today?

Tritax Euro.
Benchmark Hlds         

Finals results
Mmc Norilsk Adr
Phosagro S     

Trading announcements
Royal Mail
Watches Switz

Q4 results

Int. economic announcements
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) Consumer Price Index (US)

UK economic announcements
(07:00) Industrial Production
(07:00) Index of Services
(07:00) Balance of Trade
(07:00) Manufacturing Production
(07:00) GDP (Preliminary)
(07:00) Gross Domestic Product
(00:01) RICS Housing Market Survey

Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times

did you know

Since Georges Pompidou, who served as president of France from 1969 until his death in 1974, official portraits of French presidents have alternately been taken indoors and outdoors.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Attorney General

Business statement
Business questions to the Leader of the House

House of Lords

Oral questions

Organ Tourism and Cadavers on Display Bill – committee stage
Nationality and Borders Bill – committee stage (day 5)

Scottish parliament

General questions

First minister’s questions

Portfolio questions
Constitution, External Affairs and Culture

Scottish government debate
Professional Qualifications Bill (UK Legislation)

Stage 2 proceedings
Budget (Scotland) Bill

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