Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Priti bad timing

Written by Katie Armour, senior associate
Edited by Scott Reid, associate partner

18 November 2021 

Good morning,

By any measure, yesterday was not a comfortable day for the prime minister.

Questions about contracts at PMQs. A grilling on sleaze in the afternoon debate on Owen Paterson. Questions about his own father who faced two accusations of sexual assault, in committee and then a haggard appearance in front of aggrieved back benchers at the 1922 committee.

With a line up like that you’d be willing a good news story to land on your desk. It seems unlikely that the High Court is going to provide him with that.

Judges are this week examining the Priti Patel bullying affair, after the FDA union lodged a judicial review of Johnson’s decision to deviate from advice and absolve her of punishment.

In a report published last November, independent adviser Sir Alex Allan concluded that Priti Patel’s behaviour towards her staff, which included shouting and swearing, met the definition of bullying adopted by the civil service.

Having urged colleagues to “form a square around The Prittster”, Johnson, as arbiter of the ministerial code, decided that Patel had not fallen foul of the rules because her behaviour was not intentional.

It’s that judgement that is being put to the test, and the court is expected to wrap up sittings today before the judges retire to deliberate.

General secretary of the FDA trade union, Dave Penman, says this ‘unintentional’ defence has offered a clear “get out of jail free card” to ministers, and scoffs at the suggestion that bad behaviour can be so easily dismissed as long as you say you didn’t mean it.

As schedules go, it couldn’t be more painful timing for the PM and the uncomfortable narrative isn’t ebbing away.

Johnson has only just finished apologising for the last time he changed the rules to save a friend’s skin. It’s reported that he told backbenchers last night “on a clear road I crashed the car into a ditch”. But 17 days after the first sleaze headlines hit the papers, colleagues may begin to wonder if he has cause to re-test his eyesight just like Dominic Cummings.

Priti Patel, however, is not waiting around to see it. Playbook reports that she is currently on a security tour of Washington, meeting Homeland Security experts to consider intelligence cooperation, international terrorism and online harms.

‘Important’ overseas tours are a tried and tested tactic, as Johnson knows only too well, but one does wonder if she’s not slightly scarred by the last time she hurried home to face judgement and dismissal from the international development office over an unauthorised trip to Israel.

That may not happen this time, but the government’s repeated u-turns (36 so far according to Politico) give little faith that the heirs of Thatcher (The Lady’s not for turning) have a clear guiding star.

News

The Ministry of Defence has launched an investigation after a British F-35 fighter jet crashed into the Mediterranean during a routine operation. The pilot was safely ejected and defence secretary Ben Wallace expressed relief the pilot was back on board the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Reports suggest ministers are hoping to finalise a deal to fly migrants who cross the channel to Albania while they go through the asylum process as a method of “deterrent” from seeking to enter the UK. The government’s efforts to find methods to “push back” boats have been deemed as “unworkable” inside government. (£)

Detectives believe the Liverpool bomb attack suspect had been gathering explosive materials since April in a bid to create 7/7 style devices.

Business and economy

Amazon is set to stop accepting UK-issued Visa credit cards from the start of next year as part of an ongoing tension over “high fees”. In the aftermath of the announcement, Visa’s shares dropped by more than five per cent. (£)

Former prime minister David Cameron has quit his job as chair of software firm Afiniti after its founder Zia Chishti was accused of sexual harassment. He has held the advisory role since 2019. (£)

EU lawmakers have agreed on how best to target major tech firms to curb anti-competitive practices in the digital economy. The main political parties reportedly signed up to a deal that would apply to companies with a market capitalisation of at least €80bn, and offering at least one internet service. (£)

Columns of note

Anthony Browne writes in The Times that tech giants must pay for the rise in online fraud. He argues that at present there are “no internal financial incentives” and floats the idea of social media brands paying compensation. (£)

Camilla Tominey writes in The Telegraph that Boris Johnson is using the curb on second jobs for MPs to “clear out the old guard” and diversify Conservative parliamentarians. She notes concerns the group of MPs are “lazy” and “complacent” and argues that the chasm between old and new intakes has widened over “sleazegate”. (£)

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed in a negative state on Wednesday, after sterling gained and the UK inflation figures made a rate hike more likely.

The FTSE 100 ended the session down 0.5% at 7.291.20, and the FTSE 250 was also up 0.6% at 23,574.05.

Sterling was, however, stronger, trading 0.4% higher against the dollar at $1.34 and 0.4% higher against the euro, changing hands at €1.19.

In company news

SSE’s share price fell despite reporting a rise in interim profit due to its gas storage operation offsetting the fall in renewables earnings.

Experian traded more weakly despite upgrading its full-year guidance after the consumer data group reported that strong growth in the first half of the year was the result of pandemic reopening. 

What’s happening today?

FinalsDaily MailGrainger plc

InterimsInvestec

Q3 ResultsEfg-herm.gdr S

Source: Financial Times

did you know

The word ‘Arctic’ comes from the Greek word for bear, Arktos. It’s believed the name refers to two constellations that can be seen in the northern sky — ‘Ursa Minor’ (Little Bear) and ‘Ursa Major’ (Great Bear). (Source: National Geographic)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questionsDigital, culture, media and sportAttorney General

Business statementBusiness questions to the leader of the house

MotionConsideration of a business of the house motion

LegislationCritical benchmarks (references and administrators’ liability bill)

AdjournmentBritish Council and opportunities for Global Britain

Westminster Hall debatesPublic access to automatic external defibrillatorsEnabling visa and permit-free working for musicians in the EU

House of Lords 

Oral questionsBuilding 40 new hospitalsRetained European Union lawCosts of repairing building safety defectsImproving rail infrastructure in the north of EnglandImpact of the protocol on Northern IrelandCourt of Justice of the European UnionPhysical checks on solid fuels entering the republic of Ireland

DebateOutcome of COP26Reviewing the process for appointing members of the House of LordsPolicy on initial teach training

Scottish parliament 

General Questions First Minister’s Questions Member’s Business debateRoad safety in Falkirk Parliamentary Bureau motions Scottish Parliament Corporate Body questions Portfolio questionsRural affairs and islands Scottish Government debateThe UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the UK Government’s levelling up agenda in Scotland Business Motions Parliamentary Bureau Motions

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