Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Let me tell you a story

Written by Ralitsa Bobcheva,  associate
Edited by Tom Gillingham, associate partner

20 January 2021

Good morning,

Last night, after being confronted with another flurry of gloomy news, I did what I’ve consistently done in the past ten months to cope with stress: I buried my head in a book.

The escapist potential of stories and storytelling is probably best captured in Boccaccio’s 14th century masterpiece Decameron, which tells the story of a group of people who flee Florence to escape the bubonic plague ravaging the city at the time. Isolated in a countryside villa, the youth pass the time by telling each other stories.

While varied in subject matter and tone, the tales they tell each other have one thing in common – they are all distanced from the bleak reality of the plague and from their individual experiences of it. Just like me, the storytellers embrace fiction as a vital form of escapism and solace in troubled times.

In a twenty first century take on Boccaccio’s story, The Decameron Project by the New York Times puts together stories written by well-known authors who, rather than offering a platform from escapism from the current pandemic, share their experiences of it. The popularity of the project reminded me of the importance of sharing, especially during the latest lockdown restrictions and as a growing number of people report increased level of stress and depression.

The importance of sharing personal experience as a tool for tackling mental health issues is also recognised by Scottish start-up Frog Systems. The company’s mental wellness hub is rapidly gaining recognition across a range of sectors. Like an online version of Decameron’s villa, the platform helps users to share their experiences by uploading a video or by viewing content posted by others, while linking them to relevant support services in their area. 

And as nearly two in three workers in small to medium-sized enterprises report that their mental health has suffered as a result of the pandemic, the importance of new mental health initiatives similar to Frog Systems’ seems set to grow.

Seeking escapism in books or movies may help us cope with increased levels of stress in the short-term, but to deal with a looming mental health crisis in the long-term, the best form of escapism might be finding new ways back to each other.

News

Scotland’s lockdown has been extended until at least the middle of February, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced yesterday. Under the revised lockdown restrictions, schools will remain closed until mid-February while the islands of Barra and Vatersay are being moved into the top level of restrictions following a  ”significant outbreak“ there.
 
Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States today in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC. On Tuesday afternoon, Donald Trump issued a farewell address video in which he calls on the American people to pray for the success of the incoming administration but also added that “the movement we started is only just beginning”.
 
German chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germany may need to close its borders if other European countries do not act to halt the spread of the Covid-19, particularly its new variants. This comes after Merkel and leaders of Germany’s 16 states agreed to extend the lockdown measures for two more weeks for most shops and schools in the country and extend provisions for companies hit hard by the closures.

Business and economy

The unemployment crisis has taken its highest toll on Black, Asian and minority-ethnic workers over the course of the pandemic, according to a new analysis. The research found that the employment rate for people from BAME backgrounds slumped 5.3% in the year to September 2020, compared with a 0.2% decrease in the number of employed white workers.
 
The UK’s inflation rate surged to 0.6 per cent in December from 0.3 per cent in November, according to the latest official figures by the Office for National Statistics. Clothing and transport costs were the main factors behind the rise while these were offset by falling food prices, the ONS deputy national statistician has said.
 
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has confirmed that the government has embarked on a post-Brexit review of UK employment law but said it would not lead to a reduction in workers’ rights. This comes after the FT reported last week employment regulations enshrined in EU law could be shaken up under plans being drawn up by the government for an overhaul of employment law but Downing Street refused to comment on the report at the time. (£)

Columns of note

 In light of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president of the United States today, Ido Vock warns in The New Statesman that the influence of Donald Trump may continue to haunt the country for many years to come. He suggests the legacy of Trump’s “America First” isolationism could determine the course of Joe Biden’s presidency and stall hopes of new thinking on foreign policy.
 
In August 2020, Russian opposition figure and activist Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent novichok. Three days ago, he finally returned to Moscow, only to be jailed 24 hours later. In the GuardianYana Gorokhovskaia explores some of the political and social dynamics which caused Navalny’s predicament and predicts a growing collision between Putin’s party and its opposition.

Cartoon source: The New York Times

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks moved into the red yesterday, as investors awaited a testimony on stimulus by incoming US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. The FTSE 100 closed the session down 0.11% at 6,712.95, and the FTSE 250 was 0.18% weaker at 20,602.89. Sterling had a mixed day, last reaching 0.26% on the dollar to $1.3622, but losing 0.11% against the euro to €1.1238.
 
In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.38%, to 30,930.52, the S&P 500 gained 30.66 points, or 0.81%, to 3,798.91 and the Nasdaq Composite added 198.68 points, or 1.53%, to 13,197.18.
 
In company news:
 
Netflix has added more than 8.5m paid subscribers in the four months to 31 December, beating analysts’ expectations of 6.1m.
 
Public spending watchdog National Audit Office released a report on public broadcaster BBC, warning it needs to be ready that its licence fee income may fall further still.
 
HSBC has announced the closure of 82 UK branches under the claim that just one customer in ten still visits a high street location.

What’s happening today?

Trading announcements
Antofagasta
BHP Group
Burberry
Cairn Energy
City Lon Inv
Cmc Mkts
Diploma
Global Ports S
Wetherspoon (J.D.)
Wh Smith

Interims
Van Elle

AGMs
Diploma
Edin.wwide Inv
Majedie Inv.
Prairie Min 
Residential Sec
Wh Smith

UK economic announcements
(07:00) Producer Price Index
(07:00) Retail Price Index
(07:00) Consumer Price Index

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) GFK Consumer Confidence (GER)
(07:00) Producer Price Index (GER)
(10:00) Consumer Price Index (EU)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

Cock ale was a popular drink in the 17th and 18th centuries, combining the flavors of beer and chicken soup.  Source: @qikipedia

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Northern Ireland
 
Prime Minister’s Question Time
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Internet Access – Darren Jones
 
Legislation
National Security and Investment Bill: remaining stages
 
Motion
Motion Relating to the Appointment of an Electoral Commissioner – Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
 
Adjournment
Building Safety Fund – Stephen Morgan

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Various
 
Legislation
Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Operations) Bill – second reading – Baroness Goldie

Scottish Parliament 

Parliamentary Bureau Motions
First Minister’s Questions
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Ministerial Statement: Update on Drugs Policy
Scottish Labour Party Debate: Scotland’s Wellbeing
Business Motions
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Approval of SSIs (if required)
Decision Time

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