Best friends and worst enemies: The election is testing bonds
While politics is a famously tough business, the start of this particular campaign has been marked by a peculiar mix of both match-fixing and furious aggression, Miranda Green writes in her column.
It has already spawned both a “Unite to Remain” alliance – Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru – and a “unilateral Leave alliance” – with the Brexit party standing down from Tory-held seats.
But the amity also conceals considerable enduring enmity. The Brexit party is bickering about how far to go to ease Mr Johnson’s path to a majority, while Labour and the Lib Dems are at daggers drawn.
With this cross section of extreme positions, some fear the next crop of MPs may be even more tribal and disputatious.
The think-tank Radix has produced a paper entitled “Avoiding the psychopaths”. It suggests ensuring that would-be MPs are able to work across party lines by publishing a job spec that calls for individuals who are “committed to public service, able to build alliances, juggle multiple tasks and have thick skins”.
Business hits back at Labour’s corporate overhaul plans
The verdict is in from British business on Labour’s proposed economic shake up, and, unsurprisingly, it is not glowing.
In the wake of John McDonnell’s speech this morning, the British Chamber of Commerce warned that it would be “misguided” to impose rigid strictures on how corporations operate and said “government interference” could hurt investment.
The shadow chancellor’s plan to “rewrite the rules of our economy” would involve sweeping changes to the way businesses are run, ranging from “inclusive ownership funds” that would seize 10 per cent of the shares in all big companies over a decade to a pledge to delist companies that do not take sufficient steps to tackle the climate emergency.
“It’s one thing to support employee ownership, stronger corporate governance and a transition to a greener economy, which have had positive impacts on many firms,” said Claire Walker, co-executive director of the BCC. “But it would be misguided to impose a rigid, one-size-fits all approach.”
Getting our economy moving requires serious investment in skills, infrastructure and a reduction in business costs. But extensive government interference in ownership and governance could deter investors and damage confidence.
Any incoming government must work more closely with businesses to transform the economy to benefit communities across the UK. Businesspeople want to play their part, but success will depend on partnership, not diktat.
Labour promises Big Four crackdown
Here’s more from Jim Pickard on John McDonnell’s confirmation that Labour will separate the Big Four’s audit businesses from other non-audit services such as consulting. The party will establish a new statutory body to carry out audits of banks, building societies, credit unions, insurers and major investment firms, he said.
The shadow chancellor vowed to shake up the system of auditors for various industries under the auspices of a new “Business Commission”.
Labour in government will institute a radical overhaul of UK company law and practice in order to bring about real change in the corporate sector.
Labour’s plans for corporate governance
Here is some more from Jim Pickard, who has been watching Labour’s John McDonnell speak this morning:
Labour has just released a document that spells out some of the corporate governance elements of the party’s manifesto. Here are the main points:
• John McDonnell is pushing ahead with his “inclusive ownership funds” that would seize 10 per cent of the shares in all big companies over a decade – at 1 per cent a year. The document makes clear for the first time that the IOF shares would be limited to UK profits only. Research from a think tank called Common Wealth suggests that this model would mean annual dividends of £5.8bn a year.
• Companies which do not take adequate steps to tackle the climate emergency will be delisted from the London Stock Exchange. McDonnell first floated this in May.
• A Labour government would impose a 20:1 pay ratio between highest and lowest paid workers in the public sector and private companies bidding for state contracts.
• All executive remuneration packages in large companies will be subject to an annual binding vote by stakeholders including staff and consumers as well as shareholders.
• The ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms will be forced to split their accounting and consulting arms. A new statutory body would conduct audits of all financial services companies.
• A new Business Commission would oversee a shake-up of Britain’s regulatory system.
• Labour would rewrite the Companies Act to ensure companies are oriented towards the long-term.
• Not only will companies have workers on boards but large companies will also be invited to adopt a two-tier board structure: the executive board would take daily decisions and the supervisory board (including customers, staff, shareholders) would take more long-term decisions.
• Meanwhile the shadow chancellor was asked by one reporter if there would be a “windfall tax” for oil companies in the manifesto on Thursday and he said: “No.” So I then asked him if there was a new tax of some other kind on the oil industry and he refused to answer.
Market round-up: Pound slides while equities tick up
The pound has snapped a four-day winning streak to trim about 0.2 per cent off its value against the dollar and trade at about $1.2931 in late morning trade in London. The UK currency has shed a similar amount against the euro today to €1.1676. That makes €1 buy 85.61p.
Stocks meanwhile have had a bit of a lift with the composite Stoxx 600 up 0.6 per cent while the FTSE 100 has picked up 1.2 per cent. London’s benchmark index has added nearly 10 per cent this year.
After a lacklustre few days, today’s climb would put the London exchange on a path towards its biggest percentage gain in a day since August. US stock futures point towards the record-busting S&P500, which has added about a fifth to its value this year, climbing another 0.3 per cent when Wall Street opens later on Tuesday.
Labour plan to shake up Companies Act
John McDonnell has vowed to “rewrite the rules of our economy” – by enhancing the rights of workers at the expense of shareholders – if Labour wins the general election, Jim Pickard reports.
Mr McDonnell, speaking at an event in central London, said he wanted to explore the introduction of two-tier boards for larger listed companies: they would have an executive board for day-to-day decisions and a supervisory board of stakeholders, employees and customers.
We will ensure that all executive remuneration packages in large companies are subject to an annual binding vote by stakeholders, including shareholders, employees and consumers.
The shadow chancellor said that the Vote Leave slogan, “Take back control”, struck a chord with people in 2016 because workers felt disempowered. “We aim to take on the excesses of the shareholder model and lay the foundations for a stakeholder economy.”
At the heart of Labour’s model will be the idea that every business should be a partnership – between employees, customers, managers and shareholders. This is to ensure the long-term success of the enterprise.
Crunch point comes tonight with televised dual
The televised debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, scheduled for 8pm on ITV, is the most important moment in a campaign that has been a relatively staid affair to date, with no one gaining or losing much momentum, writes Sebastian Payne.
It will be an opportunity for opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and a potential threat for the Conservatives’ Boris Johnson. The prime minister is on course to win a comfortable majority: he can either solidify his position or jeopardise it. The risk of the latter is much greater.
A senior official on the Tory campaign explains what they hope to achieve tonight:
It’s a moment to reinforce our messages at a time when more voters than usual sit up and take notice (or take some interest after the fact and go and look around for it).
We are not looking for some silver bullet as they don’t exist. Land your message, illustrate the contrast, make the case, and importantly look reasonable. Tone is important.
The leader of the opposition, however, needs a breakthrough tonight. The Labour party’s campaign has lacked the surprise sparkle of 2017 and there is no sign of Mr Corbyn making any gains. It is 15 points behind the Tories in the polls and time is running out to narrow the gap.
Greens pledge £100bn a year for ambitious emissions reduction plan
Here is some more detail on the Green New Deal.
To achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030, the party says it will invest £100bn a year.
Subsidies to the oil and gas industry would be removed, a carbon tax on all fossil fuel imports and domestic extraction would be applied and fracking banned. The construction of nuclear power stations would be prohibited because it “is a distraction from developing renewable energy” and poses a risk to nearby communities.
Labour’s manifesto is expected to use aspirational language in trying to reach the 2030 net-zero carbon target, softening a pledge from its party conference this year. The Conservatives meanwhile have announced a halt to fracking, and set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Liberal Democrats have promised the same by 2045.
If the Green party gains power, they promise that 70 per cent of the UK’s electricity will be provided by wind in 10 years’ time and community-driven renewable energy projects will be commonplace in a more efficient network.
Greens: The Future Won’t Give Us Another Chance
Co-leader Siân Berry said every Green MP elected to the House of Commons will “hit the ground running” with the bills if voted into parliament next month, Laura Hughes writes.
Caroline Lucas, the party’s only elected member and its former leader, was first voted an MP in 2010 and increased her majority in the subsequent two elections.
“The future won’t give us another chance to get the next two years right,” Ms Berry said.
Green co-leader Jonathan Bartley warned the climate change emergency facing the UK is of a “different magnitude to the financial crash”.
Our planet is ringing the alarm. Hitting snooze simply isn’t an option. We can’t expect the climate emergency to go into reverse.
Amelia Womack, the party’s deputy leader, hit out at the Liberal Democrat party’s pledge to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit altogether without a second EU referendum.
She said the Greens would not “overturn the votes of millions of our fellow citizens” and would instead push for a second vote.
Greens push for net zero carbon emissions by 2030 in manifesto
The Green party has pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions in the UK by 2030 in their election manifesto, which they launched this morning in south London, Laura Hughes writes.
The party’s co-leaders have set out 10 parliamentary bills, which they seek to push through parliament over the next two years.
Their manifesto includes:
– A Green New Deal Bill to “get the UK on track to reducing climate emissions to net zero by 2030”.
– A People’s Vote Bill which calls for a second vote on “the future of our relationship with the European Union”.
– An NHS Reinstatement Bill to increase funding for the National Health Service by at least £6bn per year, until 2030.
– A Universal Basic Income Bill – to transform the social welfare system with a phased-in unconditional payment to “everyone at a level above their subsistence needs.
– A Future Generations Bill which would “require public bodies to balance the needs of the present with the needs of the future”.
– A Voting Reform Bill – to replace the UK’s first past the post voting system with proportional representation and extend the voting age to 16 and 17 year-olds.
SNP’s Sturgeon on tonight’s debate
The Scottish National party and Liberal Democrats, Britain’s third and fourth largest in the most recent parliament, have been blocked out of tonight’s debate after they failed in a legal challenge aimed at including their leaders in the ITV programme.
The Lib Dems and SNP argued it was illegal and unfair to exclude anti-Brexit parties from the primetime TV debate, but the High Court in London ruled against them on Monday.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has mocked the prime minister this morning, referring in a tweet to his pledge to “die in a ditch” rather than delay Brexit.
Will the format matter tonight?
Televised debates have been part of British elections since 2010, but tonight will be the first time that only the two main candidates to be prime minister will go head to head.
In the previous two elections, in 2015 and 2017, formats ranged from question and answer sessions with only one candidate on stage at a time to freewheeling and often clunky multi-party debates.
Some in Westminster are surprised that Boris Johnson has signed up to the format, given his strong position in the polls.
Sean Kemp, a Lib Dem adviser who worked with former party leader Nick Clegg in 2010, told the FT the prime minister had the most to lose.
Jeremy Corbyn is actually quite good in this format: he will say that cutting things is bad and that getting rich people to pay more is good.
If you look back at the history of these TV contests, the only similar format has been in 2010, when the leaders of the then-three largest parties took part in a trio of debates. They were also the only time that the debates made a significant impact on the polls, when there was a short-lived bout of “Cleggmania” as the Liberal Democrats surged.
Can Corbyn change the course of the election this evening?
With Labour trailing by a growing margin in the polls, Jeremy Corbyn will hope this evening’s televised debate with Boris Johnson will reboot the narrative of the election campaign.
George Parker and Sebastian Payne have been looking at what to watch:
• The Labour leader’s team — including communications chief Seamus Milne — spent Monday afternoon rehearsing for the hour-long encounter on ITV, buoyed by how Mr Corbyn’s TV debate performances exceeded expectations in the 2017 campaign.
• He is expected to take an aggressive line against Mr Johnson during the debate, using class warfare attacks to paint himself as the prime ministerial candidate on the side of “the many”.
• The prime minister will go on the offensive on Brexit but is being advised to avoid being too strident in his attacks on Mr Corbyn.
• Mr Johnson’s team played down the idea that TV debates were frequently “game-changer” moments in election campaigns, arguing the last time they had a transformative effect was during the shortlived Cleggmania of 2010.
Labour to add scrapping tuition fees to manifesto
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell wants to create a society where everyone has a fair chance to succeed and “grotesque levels of inequality” are tackled, he tells BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The opposition party plans to launch its manifesto on Thursday, reports Eoin McSweeney.
“Our policy is to scrap tuition fees,” said Mr McDonnell.
I’m not betraying any secret. That will be in our manifesto, launched on Thursday. The debt that has been piled up already…[It] is a problem we all have to accept. The government is having to write it off… The system was designed in such a way that it would not work.
When pressed on the pile of student debt, he said something had to be done by whoever is in government, but did not specify what.
Mr McDonnell believes tax cuts have continuously benefited corporations and the wealthy. He invited billionaire John Caldwell, a critic of Mr Corbyn, to talk to him so he can allay any fears of an attack on entrepreneurship.
Duke fallout and Hong Kong violence: what’s hitting the headlines
The Times says the Duke of York’s main charitable project is in jeopardy as City backers and his key sponsor pulls out:
Most other papers lead on the Prince Andrew fallout and investors pulling the plug. The Daily Telegraph has Charles Moore, former editor of the paper, The Spectator and The Sunday Telegraph, making the case for Andrew. “Andrew was caught like a fly in the BBC’s web” is the headline to his commentary.
The Guardian leads on National Health Service chiefs warning that the staffing crisis in hospitals is putting patients at risk and highlights the anger as US says Israel settlements are “not illegal”. The NHS will pay some of doctors’ tax bills, says the Telegraph, in efforts to avert a winter crisis caused by understaffing. Many consultants have refused to work overtime in case they are hit by high tax rates on their earnings and pension contributions.
The Financial Times highlights the clashes in Hong Kong with a stark photo of a woman being detained. Its other main stories are Boris Johnson shelving his corporation tax cut while Airbnb is limbering up for its initial listing by signing a $500m Olympic sponsorship deal.
How much higher can the pound go?
Sterling was flat in early London trading this morning, holding onto yesterday’s gains as weekend polls showed Boris Johnson’s Conservatives widening their lead over Labour.
The pound was the top performing G-10 currency yesterday, and hit a six-month high against the euro.
“Attention will turn to tonight’s head-to-head debate between Prime Minister Johnson and Labour leader Corbyn,” Deutsche Bank’s strategists said.
“Corbyn has to make these events count with Johnson if he wants to catch up so expect a full on attack from the challenger.”
Looking further ahead though, the FT’s Mike Mackenzie thinks the pound looks near a top until the general election result provides the next catalyst for the currency market. You can sign up for his daily Market Forces email here.
In the wider stock market, London’s FTSE 100 followed its major European peers higher on a day of few catalysts and limited moves.
Boris the Brand v The Corbyn Programme
Without Brexit, we would not know what Boris Johnson stands for, argues Robert Shrimsley in his column this week.
Brexit has afforded Mr Johnson a definition he does not really possess. Take away Brexit and what he offers voters is not so much a vision as a brand.
Jeremy Corbyn, however, is easy and voters know exactly what he believes in. He is an uncompromising socialist, a unilateralist and an anti-American. His instincts place state control over the market, workers over employers and non-intervention over military action. Only on Brexit is Mr Corbyn vague.
‘High performing’ energy industry differs from utilities, says SSE chief
The energy industry is “high performing” and differs from other industries such as water, says the boss of SSE. Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive of the FTSE 100 utility, said the complexity and distraction of taking energy networks back into state ownership would also “significantly delay” changes needed to meet the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target, such as introducing sufficient electric vehicle charging.
See Nathalie Thomas’s interview with the SSE chief.
Mr Phillips-Davies said he was hopeful the Labour party, which wants to renationalise large parts of the economy, could be persuaded it would be a “huge mistake” to take back public control of an industry that was privatised from 1986 and which he insists was “high performing”.
Johnson on Javid: ‘Great guy, doing a fantastic job’
Boris Johnson has said he will back Sajid Javid to remain chancellor if the Conservatives win the election on December 12.
Some speculation had been swirling that the Tory leader planned to get rid of the former Deutsche Bank executive. Mr Javid’s insistence on fighting the election with some fiscal discipline had put him at odds with those in the Johnson team who favoured more public spending.
“I think he’s a great guy and I think he is doing a fantastic job,” Mr Johnson said yesterday.
Take a look at George and Sebastian’s report.
A little bit of catch-up and look ahead
Main party leaders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are to face each other in the campaign’s first televised election debate, due to air tonight on ITV.
The Liberal Democrats and Scottish National party failed in a legal challenge so their leaders Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon will not be included.
Read George and Sebastian’s piece here.
Mr Corbyn is expected to use class warfare attacks to show himself on the side of “the many”. The opposition party’s research suggests 48 of the UK’s billionaires have donated to the Conservatives since 2005.
Jim Pickard writes that members of Mr Corbyn’s inner circle see the leader’s best hope of becoming prime minister is to lead a minority government with smaller opposition parties Corbyn’s best hope is a minority government, say backers
Hello! Join us for more live 2019 campaign coverage
Good morning. Nice to see you again. Welcome back to our rolling coverage of the UK’s general election campaign. We will collate news, analysis and comment from the FT’s team throughout the day. Tonight’s televised debate between the leaders of the two main parties will be the focus today, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Conservatives’ Boris Johnson prepare to face off on commercial broadcaster ITV. As ever, do let us know your thoughts and anything you would like us to cover in the comments section below.