Daily Briefing: 11 January

By Stuart Taylor

Good morning,

Last night Americans watched on as the man they have called their president for the last eight years bid his official goodbyes to the nation.

In a break from tradition, Barack Obama gave the customary farewell address outside of Washington, becoming the first departing president to deliver his last speech in office in his hometown.

Addressing 18,000 adoring supporters in a convention hall in Chicago, only a short distance from the setting for his victory speech in 2008, the man who campaigned on a platform of hope and change spoke of his accomplishments in office, including transforming a broken economy to create the “longest stretch of job creation in our history,” restarting a relationship with Cuba, and bringing about an end to the world’s most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden.

He also used the platform to issue a call to action to those who had a desire to fight for a democracy under threat by economic inequality, racial divisions and the rising trend of different segments of society only accepting information which fits their opinions.

History will likely remember the 44th man to hold the office — and the first African-American to do so — as a charismatic statesman who had a habit for finding the right words and tone at the nation’s most pivotal moments. He led an administration that was free from scandal throughout his two terms in the White House. He was able to deliver radical transformations in both financial regulation and healthcare, and was the commander-in-chief who finally brought about the end of the country’s most wanted man.

Conversely, he was at times unable to translate from candidate to president, as pragmatic solutions replaced soaring rhetoric and radical pledges once the considerable Washington machine he promised to take on bared its teeth. His inaction in Syria will continue to be cited by his critics as betraying a lack of courage when it came to foreign policy, and his tenure continues to be plagued by high profile racial shootings.

As he departed Chicago last night, Obama boarded Air Force One for the final time. When he uses the presidential aircraft on Inauguration Day to depart Washington as a mere former president, the famous plane is known simply as “Special Air Mission 28000.”

NEWS

US news reports indicate that Russian intelligence agencies have obtained material which personally compromises Donald Trump. The president-elect has denounced the story as a “political witch hunt” as he prepares to hold a news conference this afternoon.

Senior aides to Prime Minister Theresa May have criticised the head of the NHS, Simon Stephens, as not sufficiently enthusiastic and responsive, as Downing Street seeks to shift the blame for escalating chaos in hospitals in England.

A policy of maximum wages for executives at companies with government contracts was unveiled by Jeremy Corbyn yesterday, as the Labour leader kicked off a long-planned relaunch. The reboot didn’t go completely to plan, though, as Corbyn distanced himself from introducing a nationwide pay cap, a policy he had mooted earlier in the day.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Official figures published yesterday show that income inequality is at its lowest level since the height of Thatcherism. Poorer households’ living standards got a boost from jobs growth and low inflation last year, while earnings for the richest fell, helping wage inequality fall to its lowest level since 1986. (£)

Bosses in the City of London have called for a three-year delay to Brexit to let companies adjust to new trading arrangements between the UK and the EU and to avoid the risk of the multi-trillion-dollar derivatives market crashing. (£)

The World Bank has reduced its economic growth forecasts for Britain up to 2019, signalling that it sees no sign of recovery from a Brexit-induced slowdown. Expectations dropped from 2.1 per cent to 1.2 per cent in 2017 and from 2.1 per cent to 1.3 per cent in 2018. It predicted growth of 1.3 per cent in 2019. (£)

Sainsbury’s has today reported record Christmas sales of more than £1bn across the group. Argos, which Sainsbury’s bought last year, also posted strong sales over Christmas and Black Friday.

MARKETS

The FTSE 100 yesterday closed at a record high for the ninth consecutive day, marking its longest streak in history.

The record was again partly thanks to the decline in the strength of the pound, with many of the companies listed on the index profiting when their foreign earnings are converted into pounds.

Supermarket shares played a large role in Tuesday’s trading session, ending 37.7 points up on the day, with Morrisons one of the strongest performers after a a strong Christmas period, and Tesco rising six per cent.

On the currency markets, the pound stabilised against the dollar, while it was €1.1499 against the euro.

Finals

Shoe Zone

AGMs

Fenner

UK Economic Announcements

(09:30) Balance of Trade

(09:30) Industrial Production

(09:30) Manufacturing Production

International Economic Announcements

(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)

(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Source: FTSE100, The Financial Times

COLUMNS OF NOTE

In The Guardian, Owen Jones questions the focal point of Jeremy Corbyn’s relaunch yesterday. He argues that, with the NHS in crisis, health should be the dominant policy issue for the party at the moment, and pronouncements about immigration and high pay are mere distractions.

Stephen Bush in the New Statesman looks at the likely election looming in Northern Ireland. He argues that a second election so soon after the last one is unlikely to solve anything due to the nature of Stormont’s electoral system, which mandates power-sharing.

Cartoon Source: The Times

ON THIS DAY

In 1964, Introducing… the Beatles, the first Beatles album to be released in the US, was issued. Tracks on the LP included I Want to Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There.

PARLIAMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS

House of Commons

Oral questions

International Development, including Topical Questions

Prime Minister’s Questions

Ten Minute Rule Motion

Guardianship (Missing Persons) — Kevin Hollinrake

Adjournment

A&E provision in Shropshire & Mid Wales — Daniel Kawczynski

House of Lords

Oral questions

Plans to recruit, train and support volunteer reading helpers to go into primary schools and work with children who are struggling with their literacy

- Baroness Benjamin

The right of non-British European Union nationals employed in the agriculture, caring and hospitality sectors to remain in the UK following Brexit

- Lord Lee of Trafford

In the light of the Wood review of local safeguarding children boards, what steps are being taking to assess the risk to children in unrecognised school settings or receiving home education — Baroness Deech

Publishing Government proposals for the support for farming following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU — Baroness McIntosh of Pickering

Legislation

Higher Education and Research Bill — Committee stage (day 2) — Committee of the Whole House — Viscount Younger of Beckie

Statement

Mental Health and NHS Performance Update — Lord O’Shaughnessy

Cross-examining victims within the family court — Lord Keen of Elie

Equine welfare standards — Lord Higgins

Scottish parliament

Portfolio Questions

Justice and the Law Officers

Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

Scottish Government Debate: Welcoming Global Citizenship, Scotland’s International Development Strategy

Members’ Business — S5M-02327 Liz Smith: STEP Physical Literacy Programme

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