House of Lords
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Richard Leonard bingo
Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate
Edited by Tom Gillingham, partner
15 January 2021
It’s 24 September 2018, and the Scottish Labour leader is about to address his party’s UK conference. I, watching on television in Holyrood’s Tory research office, have prepared a game: Richard Leonard Bingo. I predict he’ll attempt a joke about English football, mention Keir Hardie, snap from bullishness to pleading. After ten minutes of doctrinaire declamations on state control, my bingo card is unmarked. He has confounded me.
Last autumn, Leonard clung to his leadership while former allies like Glasgow MSP James Kelly turned on him. This stubbornness seemed to characterise a leader who, through more apparent downs than ups, was nearing the longest tenure as Scottish Labour leader since the party left government. Yesterday, he announced his resignation. He has confounded everyone.
Leonard’s term began soon after Scottish Labour surprised itself by taking seven seats in the 2017 general election. Yet, under Leonard, the party’s infighting and quotidian mistakes persisted. The 2019 general election reversed Labour’s 2017 gains.
Since 2014, the constitutional question has dominated Scottish politics and edged out Scottish Labour. In that springtime of Corbynism when Leonard entered office, some argued he could cut through the constitutional issue by offering a vision of a socialist Scotland. In 2021, the tenure of Scottish Labour’s most left-wing leader ends neither in triumph nor catastrophe but in stagnation.
Circumstances have changed. Jeremy Corbyn failed as UK Labour leader; Sir Keir Starmer replaced him. The red star over Scotland faded more subtly. At the 2015 general election, Nicola Sturgeon proudly presented herself as more left wing than Ed Miliband. The 2016 Scotland Act gave the SNP power to create a high-tax, high-spend economy. It has shown little intention do so. Where was the furore? Where was Leonard’s opportunity?
In 2014, as since, many former Labour voters were attracted to independence not because it represented socialism per se but because it represented some change, any change, from the status quo that had failed them. For post-industrial communities, Leonard’s invocations of Keir Hardie and Jennie Lee held little relevance. Scotland’s politics are now dominated by an issue of national rather than class identity.
It’s a hard task but Leonard’s successor could yet win some socially liberal voters back to Labour. Some may yet believe the solutions to Scottish Labour’s problems are clear, simple, and socialist; Richard Leonard has confounded them.
Richard Leonard has resigned as Scottish Labour leader after three years. Leonard, who survived an attempted coup last autumn, claimed speculation over his leadership had become a “distraction” in the run-up to May’s planned Scottish election. UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer praised his “unwavering commitment”. Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie will serve as interim leader while Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar is widely regarded as the front-runner to replace Leonard.
The UK government has banned incoming travellers from South American, Portugal, and Cape Verde as concerns grow over a new strain of Covid-19 detected in Brazil. This comes as UK daily figures yesterday showed 48,682 new cases and 1,248 deaths; however, the number of people who have received their first dose of the vaccine is approaching 3 million.
In the US, president-elect Joe Biden has Joe Biden has announced a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 recovery package. The plans include $160 billion for vaccination, testing and other health programs; $1 trillion in relief to families via direct payments and unemployment insurance; $440 billion for aid to and businesses and communities; and $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has rejected a report in the Financial Times that the UK government intends to remove employee protections such as the 48-hour week. Scrapping the guarantees would contradict the UK government’s previous commitment to maintain a ‘level playing field’ with EU regulations.
Business and economy
The Office of National Statistics has published figures showing the UK economy shrank by 2.6% in November as fresh lockdown restrictions reduced economic activity. UK gross domestic product at the end of November was 8.5% below its pre-pandemic peak. The decline came after six consecutive months of growth, ending in a 0.6% improvement in October.
Budget airline operator Norwegian has axed long-haul services, leading to the loss of 1,100 pilot and cabin crew jobs based at Gatwick. In recent years, the airline had shaken up the sector by offering budget long-haul flights, yet its entire fleet has been grounded since March. In August, it recorded a £442 million loss for the first half of the year.
Research from Dealroom and London & Partners has found London-based tech start-ups received $10.5 billion in new investment in 2020. This is slightly lower than the $10.7 billion recorded in 2019 but higher than the $5.9 billion figure from 2018. London-based tech companies banked three times more than those in any other European city. Globally, London came fifth for tech investment behind only Beijing, San Francisco, New York and Shanghai. (£)
Columns of note
Fraser Nelson writes in The Daily Telegraph that Israel may offer an example for the UK’s route out of coronavirus restrictions. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has struck a massive deal with Pfizer and hopes to eliminate most Covid-19 deaths by Easter. With UK death rates expected to drop quickly soon, Nelson argues a major political prize is in sight if the government can ensure the UK is the second country to emerge from coronavirus. (£)
In The Times, Ed Conway argues Covid-19 has drawn our attention to death and away from the opposite demographic force: fertility. Conway notes UK fertility rates have dropped from 1.9 in 2012 to 1.65 in 2019; combined with declining migration, this could mean UK population levels drop too. Conway presents this as a serious risk to inflation rates, which have been kept low by easy access to labour. (£)
What happened yesterday?
Amid president-elect Joe Biden’s announcement of a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 support package, the FTSE 100 finished up 0.84% at 6,801.96 yesterday. By contrast, the US’s benchmark S&P 500 closed down 0.38% at 3,795.54, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.22% at 20,991.52 and Nasdaq Composite ended 0.12% lower at 13,112.64.
Notwithstanding a small bounce in the dollar, this week has seen little real movement across most markets. The pound was down 0.18% against the dollar, at $1.37 and slightly down, by 0.04%, against the Euro at €1.13.
In construction, Taylor Wimpey rallied 2.48% with Persimmon up 2.22% and Barratt Developments was up by 3.06%. In food and drink, Whitbread gained 4.31%, Just Group surged 19.29%, Hilton Food added 3.01% and AB Foods managed gains of 1.53%. Tesco nudged 0.29% lower and Dunelm slid 8.26%.
What’s happening today?
Northern Venture Trust
UK Economic Announcements
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Samuel Beckett is the only Nobel laureate to appear in Wisden. He played first class cricket for Trinity College Dublin in 1925 and 1926.
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