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DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Everything is absolutely, completely, totally fine

Written by Iain Gibson, associate partner
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
5 October 2020

Good morning,

“President suffers from cold and fever: Complete rest is ordered, is not stricken with influenza, says Dr Grayson”.
 
So ran the headline in The Washington Post on 5 April 1919, as US president Woodrow Wilson gathered with other world leaders in Paris for the talks aimed at a peaceful settlement to the First World War. The source of the information was the president’s personal physician, Rear Admiral Cary Grayson, who added that the “chilly and rainy weather” in the French capital was to blame.
 
Of course, we now know that President Wilson was almost certainly suffering from the so-called ‘Spanish flu’, which was sweeping the globe and ended up killing more than 50 million people. He was severely incapacitated for a fortnight and, according to some memoirs, returned to the peace talks visibly debilitated and too exhausted to maintain his prior opposition to a harsh settlement with Germany. An episode of WYNC’s excellent Radiolab podcast back in July looked at the potential role the pandemic played in laying the foundations for World War Two.
 
So there are two observations we can make from yesterday’s confusing announcement from current White House doctor Sean Conley, stating that President Trump had suffered a “limited episode” over the weekend with a “temporary drop in [oxygen] saturation”. Conley was trying to clarify an earlier statement where he said that Trump was “doing great”, only to be immediately contradicted by a briefing we now know was given by chief of staff Mark Meadows, where he said the president’s vitals were “very concerning…over the past 24 hours…and the next 48 hours will be critical”.
 
The first is that presidential physicians have a history of playing down ailments. From Grover Cleveland in 1893, Woodrow Wilson (again!) in late 1919 and Warren Harding in 1923, to the entire presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, there is a tendency to either put the best foot forward, or completely blank out reality, when communicating the health of the commander-in-chief. Dr Conley himself is on record saying that he was trying to “reflect the upbeat attitude of the team”, which should concern any of us who think the doctor’s job is actually to deal in facts. A metaphor for the entire Trump presidency, perhaps, and other medical experts are already pointing to the treatments being used as evidence that the situation is serious.
 
Secondly, and we should reiterate that it is still only speculation that President Trump is indeed in a worse condition than is being let on, what on earth will be the impact of all this on Trump himself? Woodrow Wilson arguably never recovered from Paris, falling further ill later in the year and essentially delegating executive power for the rest of his term to his wife, Edith.
 
There is not much left of this term for Trump, but how will an already erratic presidency bounce back from this, especially if he is returned to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for four more years? The pictures of him briefly leaving hospital yesterday afternoon to wave to crowds, described by one top doctor as “insanity”, invoke memories of the succession of Soviet leaders in the 1970s and 1980s who were wheeled out to the public, despite all clearly not being well. Pity the chief of staff, who is unlikely to survive his own bout of bluntness.
 
Trump may well be back in the White House today, but that is unlikely to stop the questions. Even if he is not, however, we can only hope Dr Conley and team start being a bit more forthcoming with their answers.

News

Public Health England has confirmed that nearly 16,000 cases of Covid-19 were not entered into the national computer system due to a technical glitch. The error goes some way to confirming why Saturday’s figure of 12,872 new cases and Sunday’s 22,961 figure were much higher than those of previous days.
 
Transport for London has banned Ola, an Indian ride-hailing service, due to “public safety failings”. The news comes after Uber was recently awarded a new licence for operating in the capital, following a successful legal challenge.
 
The Azerbaijani defence ministry has said that the country’s second-largest city, Gandja, is “under fire” from Armenian forces and that one of its military airports has been destroyed. Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliev, repeated his calls for Armenia to leave the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Business and economy

In an open letter organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs, more than 30 leading figures have called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to look to the early 1990s for inspiration for ideas, when the UK government reduced corporation tax, maintained the top rate of income tax at 40%, had a stamp duty threshold of 4% and VAT at 17.5%. The letter says: “the conditions that pertained at the time make a convincing case for the policies needed to stimulate and sustain our economic recovery” and that these policies “coincided with a period of strong GDP per capita and productivity growth”.
 
survey of just under 1,000 firms by the Institute of Directors found that 74% plan on maintaining the increase in home-working, with over half looking to reduce their long-term use of workplaces.
 
Cineworld confirmed this morning that it is temporarily closing all of its UK and US venues, as an increasing number of big films postpone their release dates.
 
The Financial Times reports that Italian payments providers Nexi and Sia are close to finalising a €15bn merger that will create one of Europe’s largest fintech groups. (£)
 
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed another round of aid for the US aviation industry, although congressional Republicans blocked an effort to fast-track this proposal.

Columns of note

Writing in the Financial Times, professor Graham Allison of Harvard University notes that China – set to be the only major global economy to record growth this year – is now so emboldened by the floundering west that it will soon be demanding even more of a voice on the world stage.
 
In The Times, Clare Foges suggests that Boris Johnson’s government already has the feeling of one that is near the end, drawing comparisons with the final days of John Major’s administration. She suggests a break in policy announcements when the Covid crisis subsides, a cull of the current cabinet to be replaced by people of more quality, and the resignation of Boris Johnson at some point in 2021.

Cartoon source: The Times

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Today sees the release of a number of purchasing managers’ indices (PMI) data across leading global economies (see ‘Economic Announcements’ section below). Investors, analysts, policymakers and others will be monitoring these figures to see the impact of the recent surge of Covid-19 cases.
 
The US Federal Reserve releases minutes of its Federal Open Market Committee minutes on Wednesday, and the day before that the reserve Bank of Australia will take a decision on its interest rates.
 
Politically, the UK Conservative party annual conference is underway and concludes tomorrow, with an address from prime minister Boris Johnson. In the US, vice president Mike Pence will debate Democratic VP candidate Kamala Harris on Wednesday.
 
Company-wise, Disney will update shareholders on its strategy to tackle the current crisis – having already revealed they will have to lay off nearly 30,000 theme park employees – and Tesco will follow up on last week’s announcement that it would create 16,000 jobs when it publishes its interim earnings on Wednesday.
 
UK GDP, trade and industrial product details will be announced on Friday, with analysts forecasting a boost to GDP from August’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Mulberry Group
Quadrise Fuels

Interims
Anpario
Aquis Exchange
Computacenter
Emis
Inspired Energy
Sanne Group
Tullow Oil

AGMs
Phimedix

UK economic announcements
(08:30) Halifax House Price Index
(09:30) PMI Services

Int. economic announcements
(08:55) PMI Composite (GER)
(08:55) PMI Services (GER)
(09:00) PMI Services (EU)
(09:00) PMI Composite (EU)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

In 1814, a mob demolished the Crow Street theatre in Dublin, after learning that the star attraction for the evening, a Newfoundland dog, was refusing to appear on stage.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Housing, Communities and Local Government
 
Legislation
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill: Second Reading
 
Adjournment
Unduly lenient sentences – Lee Anderson
 

House of Lords 

Introduction(s)
Lord Moylan and Lord Botham
 
Oral questions
Complaints about adult social care following the suspension of all casework by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman between 26 March and 29 June due to COVID-19 – Baroness Greengross
 
Provisions for of those with learning difficulties and autism during the COVID-19 pandemic – Baroness Bakewell
 
Impact on primary and secondary school students’ ability to learn, for those who have digital connectivity and who do not, when learning from home – Baroness McDonagh
 
Impact of quarantine provisions on civil aviation and measures to support the aviation sector – Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
 
Private Notice Question
Asylum processing centres – Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
 
Legislation
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – report stage (day 2) – Baroness Williams of Trafford

Scottish Parliament 

No business scheduled

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