House of Commons
Prime minister’s question time
Not with a bang
Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate
Edited by Tom Gillingham, associate partner
27 October 2021
With Guy Fawkes’ Night approaching, the mind travels back to those most reliable and petty childhood disappointments: fireworks that just fizzle out. Anticipant eyes follow its sparkling course and are then rewarded with nothing.
History seems so often a story of the bangs. Promising courses of events are, if they lead to nothing, readily forgotten. Cast your mind back then to an early thread of Covid commentary: the idea that, just as the virus had, up-ended our lives almost overnight, so too would it up-end our politics.
Has it? In an excellent article in the Financial Times, Janan Ganesh notes the absence of any fundamental political changes. He posits that amid the upheavals of Covid, voters have sought continuity.
Look at the G7. In the UK, France, Japan, and Canada, the incumbent parties of February 2020 are leading polls. Yes, Germany changed governments, but support for extremists has fallen. Italy is Italy. That leaves Joe Biden, who, Ganesh believes, has over-estimated his Trump-racked country’s appetite for change.
In Scotland, the pro-independence moment of a year ago has settled into something far closer to pre-pandemic polling. Along the way, we had an election distinguished chiefly by being the election whose results most resembled that of its predecessor.
In part, the upheavals of Covid may have, as Ganesh suggests, encouraged voters to seek security. In another part, the initial hardships of isolation, fear, and loss have not, as many feared, given way to economic and social disaster. Polling also suggests voters are unlikely to blame politicians for their handling of the pandemic.
Has the pyrotechnic of pandemic-induced political transformation faltered, or is this the pause before it ignites spectacularly? The Conservatives made it through the 1992 election but issues pre-dating that election – the poll tax, periods of high unemployment – to stain the party’s reputation in the decades after. What now seems like a mid-2010s peak for global populism came years, not months, after the financial crisis. The pandemic’s political waves could yet break.
Just as it was too early to predict fundamental political changes in early 2020, it is too early to see how the pandemic has affected and is affecting our politics. The firework may have fizzled out or we may be in the quiet moment before a bang.
Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the Queen will not attend the COP26 summit in Glasgow next week. The Queen, who took a brief break from duties after a stay in hospital last week, has been undertaking “light duties” from Windsor Castle.
The chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, will today present the UK government’s budget. Spending announcements in transport, health, and education have already been trailed to the media before they are to be announced to parliament. This approach has incurred criticism from the Commons’ speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Labour has claimed some rises in public spending will not go far enough to counter rises in tax and the cost of living.
The UK government has reversed its position on water companies’ dumping of sewage into the UK’s waterways. Conservative MPs faced a backlash after voting against an amendment to phase out the practice, which has become increasingly frequent. The government is now seeking a compromise amendment to support the phasing out of the practice.
Business and economy
The British Retail Consortium’s Salesforce Shopping Index has projected that consumer prices may rise up to 20% over the next few weeks due to worker and raw material shortages. Food inflation reached 0.5% in October, up from 0.1% in September.
Leaked Treasury documents have projected the introduction of ‘plan B’ measures in England could cost the UK economy up to £18bn over five months. The UK government has refused to implement such measures – which could include increased mask-wearing and social-distancing requirements – at the moment. It does, however, maintain it would be ready to implement them if needed.
A hospitality campaign group has warned a proposed rise in the national living wage to £9.50 and hour would add 30p to the prince of a pint. The pre-budget intervention by the City Pub Group echoes comments by the British Beer & Pub Association, which welcomed the increase while warning it would be “another cost for pubs”.
Columns of note
As Brazilian senators look set to undermine President Bolsonaro, the world seems to be moving on from the populists who led the agenda in 2019. Populist leaders in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, the US, and Austria have left office since the pandemic began. In the Times, Roger Boyes sees a number of reasons for this but suggests that Covid has inclined voters to science rather than strongmen and to trustworthiness rather than dynamism. (£)
In 2015, then-foreign minister of France, Laurent Fabius, chaired the COP21 summit. In a piece for the Guardian, Fabius looks ahead to CO26 in Glasgow. He believes that, while science and civic society have made great strides toward sustainability in the past six years, governments are lagging. By tackling outputs by sector and by taking on an issue like methane, Fabius argues COP26 can leave a positive legacy.
What happened yesterday?
On Wall Street, surging oil price and a raft of good corporate results pushed the S&P500 up 0.3% having earlier touched 0.7%. The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.1%, having risen by as much as 1% earlier in the day.
Europe’s Stoxx600 index closed up 0.7% and London’s FTSE100 closed up 0.8%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng, however, closed down 0.4% in response to ongoing troubles in the Chinese property market.
Sterling was trading at 1.19 euros and at 1.38 dollars.
What’s happening today?
Puma Vct 11
UK economic announcements
(00:01) BRC Shop Price Index
Int. economic announcements
(07:00) GFK Consumer Confidence (GER)
(09:00) M3 Money Supply (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Durable Goods Orders (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
Only 45% of the London Underground is underground.
House of Commons
Prime minister’s question time
Covid-19 Recovery and Parliamentary Business
Net Zero, Energy and Transport
OECD Education – Next Steps
Scottish Government Debate
Global Ambitions for COP26
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