Business, Foreign, Home, Deputy and a host of other key offices of state are still in place following today’s reshuffle, leading some to call it a damp squib. But that doesn’t mean the day isn’t turning out to be highly interesting in other ways. Three initial thoughts on the reshuffle from us as follows (thanks to Matt, Ed and Ed for their views):
1. Britain is back from Summer: The Olympics created an unusually long summer (silly) season and accompanying downtime for politics and business news. Yesterday’s war cry by Cameron, today’s reshuffle and a host of key European dates coming up mean the political and business communities are very much now back. Expect the news agenda to tighten significantly and the tone to darken markedly in the next week or two.
2. The Government has dodged a brick wall on Jeremy Hunt: Whether intentional or not, the shifting of Justine Greening away from Transport and subsequent attack from Boris Johnson that this greenlights Heathrow’s expansion will likely be the lead story on tonight’s evening broadcasts and tomorrow’s papers. Jeremy Hunt’s promotion to Health, despite his public embarrassment over News Corp will enjoy a much more comfortable second or third slot in the billing.
3. Women in the Cabinet is a weak point for Cameron: The Prime Minister has made his commitment to women occupying a third of his cabinet clear. Today’s reshuffle casts doubt on his ability to fulfill it. We don’t know the scope of junior roles yet, but the decision to give Maria Miller both the Culture and Equality/Women briefs looks strange, especially given her lack of profile prior to today. DCMS is an important department, particularly at present so why burden its Minister with a second job instead of promoting another female star to the second role? Labour will be itching to pounce.
Another week, another Friday and that means another edition of our team’s Friday Fiver. This week, we have money-printing banks, Twitter-banning broadcasters, Newsnight-debriefing and Good week/Bad week. Thanks to our contributors DC, EJ, Hendog, and Josh-ua. Enjoy!
RUNNING OUT OF PAPER… It’s becoming increasingly hard for the Bank of England to convince people of the value of QE. As Fraser Nelson argued in the Telegraph, the Bank has gone a little quiet on their original reasons for launching QE which isn’t helping – nor is the fact that the links between QE and growth aren’t being articulated clearly, if it all. Yet at the same time, IHS’ Howard Archer is already predicting QE4 for May.
There's more of this in the games room
Source: Creative Commons/mtsofan
What the bank faces then is a PR challenge (as well as the frankly odd problem that they may run out of govt bonds to buy). If they believe QE4 is needed, then they’ve got 3 months to convince a sceptical media and public why it’s needed – expect Mervyn King’s quarterly inflation report next week to begin that process.
In the meantime, hats off to Stephanie Flanders last night for managing to explain what QE actually is and does – that may well be a first
SKY’S SOCIAL MEDIA COMMANDMENTS…
Thou shalt not repost non-company tweets
Thou shalt not re-tweet rival journalist or people on Twitter
Thou shalt not tweet someone else’ beat other than your own
Thou shalt pass breaking news lines to the news desk before posting them on social media networks…
The Guardian reported that the greater powers at the broadcast station stamped down their feet, and banned journalists from reposting tweets not relating to the company. Contentious guidelines even include the warning to Sky News employees not to retweet rival reporters.
The latest development raises once again, the debate on ownership of Twitter accounts, corporate or otherwise and how a brand can be represented and equally, mis-represented on social media through its employees.
The interesting question here is whether the guidelines will be applied to other parts of News Corp’s network, and more importantly Murdoch’s own account.
NEWSNIGHT DE-BRIEF…On Wednesday, members of the FPS team attended a Gorkana event with Newsnight’s deputy editor Shaminder Nahal and planning producer Samantha McAlister to hear how the show is put together and what the team are looking for when it comes to content and guests.
For those of you with a Gorkana PR log-in, there’s a detailed summary of the event here.
Looking through our notes from the event, a number of points jump out:
The show has an average audience of 800,000 but this can jump significantly in a big news week. For example, at the height of the phone hacking scandal, 1.7 million people were tuning in
Those involved in the production of the show, are incredibly passionate about their work
Jeremy Paxman is apparently a joy to work with, although perhaps unsurprisingly, he is very challenging and demands a lot from those he works with
Source: Creative Commons/Ric_James
It’s a trend we have noted before, but was one that was reiterated at the event – business and economics news has become “sexy”. Newsnight’s producers are always on the lookout for people from the City who can explain the world of finance and its wider importance to the viewer.
The show’s producers left us with the thought that Newsnight is an opportunity to set the record straight or to put across a new or important view to the nation’s opinion formers. It’s not for everyone, but for those willing to take on a challenge, there are a few more prominent slots.
On the subject of setting the record straight and BBC flagships… The embattled chief executive of RBS, Stephen Hester, addressed his critics this week and the interview is a must listen.
GOOD WEEK/BAD WEEK…Credit where credit’s due, Ed Miliband has had a very good week. To be precise, Ed Miliband had an excellent PMQs. Yes, David Cameron had a very bad PMQs. His aggressive, impatient responses to Miliband’s patient line of questioning confirmed the accuracy of his likeness to Flashman ‘literature’s most famous bully’. Public bullies don’t tend to make popular Prime Minister’s. Just look at what happened to Gordon Brown:
Miliband on the other had a bit of an open goal when it came to the NHS. Even the influential ConHome has urged Cameron to #dropthebill, so to speak. The softly, softly approach worked well for Miliband though and importantly, his line of inquiry on the NHS was consistent. Cameron’s increasing frustration at having to give the same weak lines and limp backing to his struggling Health Secretary, amplified Miliband’s taunt of ‘calm down dear.’ It was typical of the bad luck Mili E has suffered with broadcasters that the news of Harry Redknapp’s court case emerged at the same time as PMQs, therefore minimising the impact of this little victory. Cameron’s an incredibly savvy dispatch box performer and will be increasingly wise to it, but if Miliband can continue to draw out Flashman Cameron he may enjoy more success in the opinion polls.
MORE BAD NEWS…Headlines have been dominated by the arrest and trial of ‘rogue’ trader Kweku Adoboli who is accused of unauthorised trading which cost his employer – Swiss bank UBS – about £1.5bn. However, a potentially more interesting story that has come to light in recent days is the sheer scale international investigation into manipulation of Libor – the interest rate used for inter-bank lending. Regulators in Japan, the UK, the US and Europe have been investigating the scheme since at least March 2011, and have now implicated employees at a number of major financial institutions. Analysts had long been suspicious that financial institutions were covering up the size of their borrowing costs during the depths of the financial crisis in 2008.
The increase in intranational prosecutions and international regulatory collaboration has also highlighted differing standards about what constitutes corporate crime. Many American investors were surprised at the British Financial Service’s Authority decision to fine hedge fund manager David Einhorn for insider trading because his actions would not have been considered unlawful in the US. British authorities generally cast a much wider net when investigating white-collar crime but are perceived to have a miserable record when it comes to prosecutions. By contrast, their American counterparts have a narrower definition but pursue cases with vigour, even if that means crossing international boundaries to do so.
It seems likely that more cases of this nature will emerge in the coming months, especially if Eurozone crisis continues to destabilise international markets.
Hello All, and apologies for a late night Fiver – it’s been one of those weeks in financial and professional services. Still, below we have a trip through the week’s news highlights (sadly not including Tom Watson’s intern) as you head into the weekend. Thanks to Ed, Jonathan, Ross and our latest contributor, Josh Glendinning. Have a great weekend all.
UK VS THE WORLD…..While UK GDP figures dominated the headlines on Wednesday, members of the FPS team were given an insight into what lies ahead for global growth in 2012. At an event put on by British American Business we heard from, Alexis Karklins-Marchay of Ernst & Young that despite the woes of the Eurozone, the global economy can still expect growth of over 5% this year.
Much of this output will come from what Ernst & Young term Rapid-growth markets (RGMs), a set of 25 countries they expect will account for nearly half of global growth in the next ten years. Their report on RGMs and its micro-site are an excellent resource for anyone looking for facts and figures on the future shape of the world’s economy.
As an aside, one of the panellists, Stephen Castle of the International Herald Tribune, offered an anecdote from his time in the Brussels press corps. An unnamed member of the German press, brought up in the same region of the former East Germany as Angela Merkel offered Stephen an insight on Merkel’s approach to the Eurozone crisis. In the GDR, cars and appliances were never reliable, and the parts required to fix them were never available. As a result, citizens took to patching things up and making do until they broke again. The German journalist had decided Merkel was taking the same approach to the crisis…
Hello all and welcome to the second Financial & Professional Services Friday Fiver of the year. Apparently, Monday 16th January is set to be ‘Red Monday’ – the most depressing day of the year. With that in mind, this week’s Fiver at least attempts to lift the gloom a little with the return to blogging of our resident sharp-tongued Apprentice critic, Marie Cairney, who brings us her views on Scottish independence (as a Scot herself). We’ve also got thoughts on Tesco, Mitt Romney, cockney slang and an intriguing new report from Barclays Capital. Thanks to Ed, Jonathan and Ross for their contributions as well this week.
CAMERON THE BRAVE…..In a display of blunt brinkmanship combined with a lesson in ‘being careful of what you wish for’, the PM this week tried to push Alex Salmond into a corner on the future of the UK, most likely to the bewilderment of those around him. Perhaps buoyed by his new-found devil may care – we can go it alone – attitude recently honed in Europe, Cameron decided to raise an issue that didn’t really need to be raised right now. So much so that we were looking for some really bad news that needed to be hidden in the ensuing manufactured maelstrom.
There wasn’t any but then I guess the economic crisis can’t get much worse. Philip Clarke at Tesco might have been slightly relieved for five minutes although not even a divided kingdom could distract from those awful results yesterday (more on that below). While Marie can’t speak with any certainty or authority for a nation on how much they want to stay in the UK (being a deserter for 20 years now), she can say that if there is one thing that Scots don’t like; it is being told what to do by governments they don’t vote for, especially if they are predominantly English. Have the Conservatives learned nothing? Instead of calling Salmond’s bluff Cameron played right into his tartan-mitted hands and raised the not inconsiderable heckles of 6 million people. Well done. Or as they say up there ‘Gaun yerself Big Man’!
Happy Friday peeps! Here is our fiver with a definite sporty feel to it this week. Thanks to KB, DC, CC and newby Sallie Bale, who writes about life as a fresh graduate, for this week’s contributions.
A new virtual team member….First of all, a quick welcome to our new virtual team member, DR DOOM, who we anticipate making more appearances on this blog over the coming months. We may yet recruit an alternative superhero breeding confidence into our markets, but for the time being we provide you with a depressing reminder that:
German, Italian and French markets were all down this week
Gold is reached a record value of $1,900/oz
And the all important services sector recorded its weakest growth in a year this August according to the Markit and our client CIPS’ (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) services index this week
International Paralympics Day….This week all eyes have been on the Paralympics with a huge event being held in Trafalgar Square to mark the occasion of International Paralympic Day yesterday. The event drew an impressive crowd, unsurprising considering there was a lot on offer: David Cameron and Boris Johnson taking on a (rather competitive looking) friendly doubles tennis match and Paralympic stars such as Oscar Pistorius and Ellie Simmonds were also in attendance.
Boris and Dave faced off over the net this week - it could be a sign of things to come (Image: Daily Mail)
Another week and one in which unsurprisingly, UK media attention focused primarily on the England riots (Peter Oborne’s piece today captured the wider issue rather well I believe). That’s not to say things haven’t been happening elsewhere though, particularly in the financial world.
With that in mind, here’s a round-up of the key stories from all aspects of this week. Thanks to Jonathan, Ross, new writer Claire Scott, and also our MD, Ben – his article is second up and attempts to add some perspective to events.
Zut alors…..Another week, another country but the issue, namely financial stability, remains the same. Early in the week one of the world’s best known fund managers, Bill Miller, published a response to S&P’s downgrade of US government debt. The article ‘A precipitate, wrong and dangerous decision’ran in the FT and is well worth a read.
There was a lot of this going on this week, as markets behaved in wild fashion
By Wednesday however, the bottle had stopped spinning yet again and this time it was the turn of France and its credit worthiness to come under scrutiny. With speculation about the health of some of the country’s largest banks and the ability of the nation to underwrite possible further bailouts in southern Europe giving investors sweaty palms.
In case you missed it, President Obama was in the UK this week to talk essential relationships, cyber crime and have a barbeque in the Number 10 Rose Garden. In honour, of his visit this weeks’ fiver looks at the visit and the UK’s special essential relationship with the US. Thanks to Dave, Clare, Rachel and Melanie for contributions.
Whilst Foreign Policy and the six point plan, were the main items on the agenda, surely the most interesting aspect of Obama’s visit was the upgrading of the UK’s ‘Special Relationship’ with America to an ‘Essential Relationship.’ Essential. Never mind our credit rating, we have an essential relationship with America! As Matthew D’Ancona pointed out earlier this week, it has a certain ring of indispensability to it. I’m less sure Obama’s deficit reduction plan can be described as Osbornian, as D’Ancona suggested, but you have to hand it to Cameron he pulled the rabbit out of the hat with that one.
Governments should “live within their means” but also sustain growth by investing in education, and the pace of deficit reduction “may end up being different”. Uncritical certainly from the President, but hardly the ringing endorsement David Cameron and George Osborne were hoping for with regards to their economic strategy.
They were probably also hoping for better revised Q1 GDP figures from the ONS than the ones that materialised this week at roughly the same time as the meat was cooking on the barbie. Traditionally, the revised figures show an increase in GDP for the quarter over the first, partial set of figures released. That didn’t happen this time, with growth remaining at 0.5%. More worryingly, household spending contracted 0.6% and business investment practically hid in the corner shivering, as it shrank 7.1%.
The Government remains committed to cutting hard and fast in order to shrink the deficit and get the country back on track without a large credit card bill hanging over it. Judging by the economic data and reaction to it, the jury is still out on whether this will work or not – which is perhaps why the President hedged his words to such effect.
Michelle Obama re-affirmed her own ‘essential relationship’ with old friends during the visit when she was re-acquainted with girls from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School. The EGA girls were visiting Oxford University as part of a programme to encourage them to aim high. Mrs Obama, herself a graduate of Princeton and Harvard, encouraged them to not “be afraid to take risks, ask questions, ask stupid questions, don’t be afraid to trip, fall and don’t be afraid to get back up.”
Wise words indeed from the First Lady and something all of us can take heart from. Media coverage of the meeting praised her as an inspiring role model for these young girls. But do our young people need to wait for a visit from a foreign leader’s wife to feel inspired? It strikes me that inspiration comes in all sorts of guises from dignitaries to teachers, to a school system and society that encourages successes achieved on merit. I cannot help thinking that more of our young girls would be inspired if the education system were fairer and society willed them on.
However, today’s announcement that under radical changes to admissions, some secondary schools will be able to select pupils on the basis of family income fills me with dread. If we want to inspire our young people, there has to be a better way than judging them on their parents’ finances.
Right all along?
Photo: Jacob Whittaker
There was a time when being British was all about keeping a stiff upper lip through adversity. We were a bit stuffy, grumpy, and proud of it (with the exception of Ken Dodd). But if this week’s stats from the OECD are to be believed the old stereotype has been blown out of the water – we’re actually much happier than most of our European neighbours, including those where the weather is supposedly much nicer.
Of course our BFFs across the pond are way ahead, with the ‘pursuit of happiness’ in their constitution, but recent events have given them a run for their money (Will & Kate, less than a year to go to the Olympics, plus some cracking Aviva (client) sponsored ITV dramas on the telly). Even Obama seemed to be using his visit to the UK to give a PR boost to the start of his election campaign, after all the yanks did seem to love the Royal Wedding more than we did.
Cheeriness is starting to look like part of a new national character, even a driver of government policy with the government launch of a new way of measuring it earlier this year. Yet whilst the OECD’s figures do seem to suggest that money doesn’t necessarily make you happy, it will be interesting to see whether the next GDP figures show it can work the other way around.
Obama and the ostrich generation
When all the fanfare and noise from the military 41 gun salute to welcome Obama’s visit abates, we hope that the two leading western premiers might spare a thought for the lot of their respective domestic pensioners. They don’t need to look hard or delve deeply to find incontrovertible evidence of the pensions malaise and bleak future that faces many prospective pensioners in the UK and US and indeed across most Western economies.
The worrying statistics roll in on an almost daily basis. According to an international survey released by HSBC this week six in ten Britons have no financial plan for their retirement – due to a “cycle of dependency” and suffer from an equally self-deluded belief that they will enjoy a comfortable retirement.
Across the Atlantic, prospects are equally stark in the US. New findings from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) latest public policy institute report reveals that many older Americans, employed and unemployed, may never recover financially from this latest recession, although here, half of them do actually realise that they won’t have enough money to live on in retirement.
This dearth of planning contrasts with upcoming economies in the East, where a class of “prosperous pensioners” is merging. The respective expectations on annual growth showing further downward revision for the UK economy (now a paltry 1.4%, with the US at only 2.6), is in stark contrast to buoyant growth rates in Asia’s flagship economies – China 9.2%, India 8.5%.
Sir David Walker - charged with reviewing the demise of RBS (image from guardian.co.uk)
Walker’s unique attributes of being both a credible City figure plus a trusted Government adviser make him an obvious choice for the role. His track record helps too – he has headed Government enquiries, such as in 2009 when he examined governance at the big UK banks.
Just as well then, as he’s going to have his work cut out. However “complex” the issues were, as the FSA cites somewhat reluctantly, there will be strong media interest and expectation for answers as to the causes of RBS’ demise; the excessive cost to the public purse from bailout; and the wider malaise that played out across the banking sector as the financial crisis ensued. Whilst Walker and Knight tread through a minefield to avoid the legal conflicts to RBS employees, they’ll be mindful of the need to show teeth and forensic review on both sides of the regulatory fence.
Hello All and welcome to a very sunny Friday afternoon. Before you all rush out of the door to enjoy a much earned drink, here’s our recap of five of the top financial and political stories of the week. Thanks to Jonathan, Ed, Daisy and Ross for their contributions this week.
National destiny…Two weeks ago, Portugal’s outgoing prime minister ruled out the possibility of asking the European Union for financial assistance. On Wednesday, under mounting pressure, a bailout of €80 billion was however requested. What is telling about the run of events is that to a large extent it is not governments that have the ultimate say over their financial destiny but international debt markets, a feeling reflected by Portuguese media, with the newspaper Jornal de Noticias declaring “Yesterday our country succumbed not only to the pressure of the hated markets but to itself”.