Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

No rocking around the Christmas party

Written by Maria Julia Pieraccioni, associate
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner

10 December 2021

Good morning,

Teary-eyed and dishevelled, Allegra Stratton emerged on Wednesday to announce her resignation as the UK’s spokesperson for the Cop26 climate summit. Just 24 hours earlier, a video had leaked of senior government officials—including Stratton—joking about a Christmas party that took place last year the government had vehemently denied happening.
 
The video, obtained by ITV News, shows Stratton, then prime minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson, rehearsing ahead of a press conference with other senior officials including Ed Oldfield, adviser to the prime minister. In the rehearsal, Stratton fumbles her response to being questioned on whether Downing Street had held a Christmas party despite the government’s rules dictating otherwise. In the cringeworthy footage, Oldfield tries prepping the spokesperson, asking “would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?”, to which she replies, “what’s the answer?”—cue general laughter.
 
However, amidst laughter and banter, Stratton cheekily confirms that the “fictional party was a business meeting, and it was not socially distanced”.
 
It is unclear exactly how many people attended the alleged party in question. However, this we know: the “staff meeting” occurred on 18 December of last year (the date with the highest number of Covid-19 fatalities recorded up until then), the prime minister’s deputy director of communications, Jack Doyle, gave out awards, and that “cheese and wine were served”, according to the leaked footage. As far as lockdown regulations in place at the time go, two’s company, three’s a crowd.
 
And three may very well be a crowd of concerns for the prime minister, after subsequent reports confirmed that two more parties were held during the same month last year. The Department for Education confirmed that staff and then education secretary Gavin Williamson held an office party on 10 December, while London was in tier 2 restrictions. A separate gathering took place on 27 November, although details have yet to surface.
 
Responding to an urgent question in the Commons on Thursday, Solicitor General Michael Ellis confirmed the cabinet secretary will launch an independent investigation into the three events and turn over any potential criminality uncovered to the Metropolitan police. While the prime minister is yet to be named as an attendee of any of these parties, the turbulent couple of months experienced by the UK government means he entered this particular crisis already on the back foot. Labour leader Keir Starmer accused the prime minister of not being truthful, while shadow cabinet office minister Fleur Anderson questioned whether the investigation needed to be expanded to include more alleged parties.
 
However, it seems that growing tensions are boiling within the government’s party by those left out of the prime minister’s inner circle. A senior Tory MP told The Guardian that “the PM didn’t think the rules applied to his friends”, while former chief adviser Dominic Cummings tweeted that what he claimed were Downing Street’s lies about the parties were ‘very unwise’. Others in the party appear baffled that they got caught.
 
These have been a series of rocky weeks for the Tory party, and if the investigation is anything to go by, there might not be any rocking around the Christmas tree—at least not at No10.

News

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed concern that wealthy countries will shore up Covid vaccines in response to the spread of the new Omicron variant. Wealthier countries currently accelerating the roll-out of booster shots might threaten supplies to nations where most people are still unvaccinated, said the WHO.
 
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday gave the go-ahead for the country’s last remaining coal-fired power station to be demolished. The coal station in question, Logannet, has been closed since 2016, but the demolition is seen as a symbolic move by Scottish Power, its parent company. (£)
 
The federal DC Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against former American president Donald Trump’s effort to block his White House records from being released to the House select committee investigating the events of January 6. In October, former president Trump had brought a lawsuit to block the National Archives from turning over the documents regarding the storming of the Capitol.

Business and economy

The Bank of England is expected to delay interest rate hikes in its December meeting owing to the spread of the Omicron variant. Despite newly introduced government measures, dubbed ‘plan B’, City insiders believe the UK will join other European economies in adopting a ‘wait-and-see’ approach into the next quarter.
 
Citizens Advice accused energy market regulator Ofgem of failing to safeguard consumers against ‘unfit energy suppliers’ and leaving the industry vulnerable against this year’s spike in wholesale prices. The charity is calling for an independent review of the energy market’s collapse and an investigation into Ofgem’s compliance and enforcement.
 
A highly pathogenic avian flu strain has landed a severe blow to the UK’s poultry industry, still struggling with labour shortages and cost inflation. Despite the culling of 500,000 animals across 40 sites, the risk of an avian flu contagion is still high, and the EU has imposed new restrictions to the export of poultry to the continent. (£)

Columns of note

In The Guardian, author Philip Hoare recounts the recent discovery of a living coral reef in Indonesia, thought to be dead, akin to “Finding Nemo come to life”. Hoare reflects on the history of marine exploration, including how the discovery of how whales communicated in the 1960s “actually saved the whales, because they suddenly had voices, a sense of culture and personhood”. Bestowing personhood to animals is a theme the author dabbles in his articles, going so far as to argue that humans do so to understand what is different by finding points of contact with their own experience.
 
As Russian president Vladimir Putin advances troops on the Ukrainian border, The Economist analyses America’s receding role as “guarantor of the liberal order”. Once defined as a “sleeping giant” woken up by a “terrible resolve” after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, America is now becoming increasingly reluctant to use hard power to uphold the common order. However, as America recedes, doubt surrounds who will step up to take its place. (£)

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London markets closed in negative territory on Thursday, as the introduction of ‘plan B’ Covid-19 restrictions in England sent travel and hospitality shares into turmoil. The FTSE 100 ended trading down 0.22%, while the FTSE250 followed down 0.35%. Sterling ended the day in a mixed state on Thursday, closing down 0.11% against the dollar and 0.42% stronger against the euro, at $1.319 and €1.169 respectively.
 
On the continent, the pan-European regional Stoxx 600 index closed 0.1% down since the day before, after a number of EU member states, including Denmark, Germany, Italy and Poland, tightened virus control measures.
 
In equity markets, Rolls-Royce shares ended the day weak at 3.37%, followed by airline parent company IAG shares, which, following the government’s announcement of tighter restrictions, was down 3.32%. Other companies impacted by ‘plan B’ included Restaurant Group and Cineworld Group, which shares ended the day 4.84% and 3.45% weaker, respectively.

What’s happening today?

AGM
AB Foods       
Up Global       
 
Annual Report
Diploma          
 
EGM
Star Phx Grp  
 
Final Dividend Payment Date
Genus
Scs Group      
Galliford Try   
Avingtrans      
Schroder Japan         
Ashmore        
Nwf     
Ferguson        
 
Final Results
Nexus Infrastr.

Interim Dividend Payment Date
Gcp Asset Bckd         
Nb Global       
River Mer       
Cake Box Holdi.         
Airtel Africa    
Proven Vct     
DCC   
Proven Growth           
Vh Global Sust.          
Genel Energy 
Invesco Perp Uk        
 
Quarterly Dividend Payment Date
Brunner Inv.tst
Ibm     
 
Special Dividend Payment Date
River Mer       
 
International Economic Announcement
(15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (US)
(13:30) Consumer Price Index (US)
(07:00) Balance of Trade
(07:00) Gross Domestic Product
(07:00) Index of Services
(07:00) Manufacturing Production
(07:00) Industrial Production

Source: Financial Times

did you know

According to a study by the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, all cats have “an element of psychopathy”.
(Source: Qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Private Members’ Bills
Various
 
Adjournment
Caring for children and young people with complex needs

House of Lords 

Debate
Contemporary challenges to freedom of speech, and the role of the public, private and civil society sectors in its upholding

Scottish parliament 

No business scheduled.

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