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A lesson from New Zealand

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
19 October 2020

Good morning,

In an interview with The Telegraph last week, TV mathematician Hannah Fry suggested that female leaders have been better at tackling the coronavirus crisis because “women are, in general, more capable of intellectual humility”.
 
Her words came only a few days before Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister and now the subject of a second wave of Ardern mania, won a landslide victory in the country’s general election on Saturday. The Labour Party’s outright majority under Ardern is an unprecedented feat since New Zealand introduced a voting system known as Mixed Member Proportional representation in 1996.
 
Ardern’s re-election was certainly expected, not least for her handling of Covid-19, recognised not only in New Zealand but elsewhere, too. This time, however, she won’t be required to rely on coalition agreements, especially with the now obliterated NZ First, the right-leaning and socially conservative minor party that blocked many of Labour’s policies.
 
The prime minister’s victory speech at Auckland town hall was a highlight of the moment, but also a reminder for many liberal democracies around the world: “elections aren’t always great at bringing people together. But they also don’t need to tear one another apart,” she said. The words of the leader of the opposition, the National Party’s Judith Collins, congratulating Ardern on the “outstanding result” did nothing but prove her point.
 
Despite securing a majority, the New Zealander leader might still invite the Green party into government, potentially pushing her policy agenda further to the left on issues such as the climate emergency, child poverty, affordable housing, and equitable vaccine distribution.  
 
Yet victory is not without its challenges. New Zealand may have spared the worst of Covid-19, but the crisis has led the country into its worst recession since the late 1980s. Even with Ardern’s strong mandate, her pragmatic and centrist nature as a leader will likely constrain her ability to push for transformative and bold changes that could in turn disrupt New Zealand’s economy and recovery prospects.
 
Indeed, it would be a mistake to expect the same level of compassion, resolve and “intellectual humility” from all female leaders. But Ardern’s triumph is the triumph of a kind of politics that has proven both strong and empathetic amid confusion and grief. Just the kind of leadership we all need after too much tearing each other apart.

News

The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has urged party leaders at Westminster to “break the impasse” over Covid-19 lockdown and hold a parliamentary debate to decide the level of financial aid for areas under the strictest tier 3 restrictions in England, which the region’s elected representatives have criticised as insufficient. Meanwhile, a leaked NHS document has revealed Greater Manchester is set to run out of beds to treat people left seriously ill by Covid-19, with some of the region’s 12 hospitals already full.
 
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte has announced new Covid-19 restrictions to “avoid a new lockdown” amid a surge in cases. Among other things, the measures will allow mayors to close public areas after 9pm and tighten the size of groups and opening times of restaurants. The decision came as the country registered its highest daily infection rate on Sunday at 11,705 new cases, up from 10,925 the day before.
 
Thousands of people rallied across France on Sunday in tribute to Samuel Paty, the French teacher beheaded after showing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad to his students. President Emmanuel Macron said Paty had been victim of an “Islamist terrorist attack” because he “taught freedom of expression”. Paty’s killer, 18-year-old Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch, was shot dead on Friday in the same Paris suburb where the teacher’s body was found.

Business and economy

Sources on both sides of the UK-EU trade deal negotiations expect the current suspension to be short and talks to resume within days, despite Downing Street’s tough rhetoric. Michael Gove confirmed on Sunday that he wanted a trade agreement and the door remained “ajar” on re-engagement. Negotiators have four more weeks before a deal would need to be ready for the legal ratification process.
 
China’s economy grew by 4.9% in the third quarter year-on-year, missing expectations but underscoring its strong recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the last two decades, the world’s second-biggest economy had seen an average economic growth rate of about nine percent, at a pace that has gradually been slowing.
 
The chief executive of the UK’s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has threatened to take action against big tech firms Google and Facebook if the UK government does not work to curb their powers fast enough. Andrea Costelli has urged No 10 to set up a national digital regulator within a year to avoid the agency using its powers against both companies’ “unassailable incumbency advantage”. (£)

Columns of note

In the Financial Times, Daniel Susskind turns his attention to the often forgotten workers in factories and warehouses, who haven’t been able to enjoy the comfort of working from home – a fact that explains why male blue-collar employees in Britain have been twice as likely as the wider working population to die from Covid-19. Susskind argues that the debate around the future of work needs to include a discussion about the culture and quality of jobs and workplaces beyond the white-collar office. (£)
 
Jen Clark writes in City AM about how dating responsibly in a pandemic has been complicated – with the introduction of different restriction levels across regional boundaries – urging people to commit to celibacy or cohabitation. The introduction in England of the new three-tier system of local lockdowns, Clark argues, has left lovers again at a complete loss.

Cartoon source: The New Yorker

Markets

The week ahead

After Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands announced new measures to contain Covid-19 infections last week, there are growing concerns that Europe’s economy may be sliding towards a double-dip recession, cutting short the region’s recent recovery.
 
The president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, will host a virtual discussion together with chief economist Philip Lane this week to speak with civil society organisations about the ECB’s strategic review.
 
In the meantime, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is expected to hold a video conference call with his British counterpart, David Frost, this afternoon to discuss the structure of future talks.
 
In the US, President Donald Trump is scheduled to face Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Thursday in the last presidential debate before the election on 3 November. Kristen Welker, of NBC News, will be the moderator during the face-to-face event that will take place at Belmont University in Nashville.
 
In company news, investors will be watching Netflix’s results on Tuesday for updates on its membership growth after a slowdown in Q2. The automotive industry is also in the spotlight, with some of the big carmakers also reporting this week, which will give an insight into the health of a sector particularly vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and strongly reliant on a global production network.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Tristel

AGMs
City Lon Inv
Colefax Grp.
Mattioli

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

According to a recent study from Stanford University, the frequency with which we laugh collapses around the age of 23.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Work and Pensions (including Topical Questions)
 
Consideration of Lords amendments
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
 
Adjournment
Vaccine misinformation online – Chris Elmore

House of Lords 

Introduction(s)
Lord Dodds of Duncairn
 
Oral questions
Future of historic statues in England – Baroness Deech
 
Government estimate of the costs of their decision to appeal the decision of the High Court on 19 December 2019 in ‘Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens versus Home Office’ – Lord Alton of Liverpool
 
Provision of new rolling stock for rail services in the East Midlands – Lord Bradshaw
 
Review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 – Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
 
Legislation
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill – second reading (day 1) – Lord Callanan
 
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill – second reading – motion to regret – Lord Judge
 
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill – second reading – motion to regret – Lord Cormack

Scottish Parliament 

In recess until 26 October 2020.

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