Not before time, the City seems to have found its way into the mainstream of the government’s Brexit thinking.
Last week, Brexit secretary David Davis made his first speech in the Square Mile at the City A.M. Awards. Before he spoke, one guest said to me, “David Davis? Really?” I checked in with her after his remarks and she said: “I wanted to hate him, but I can’t – and he does seem to get it.”
Small praise, perhaps, but it suggests to me that the government should have moved far, far sooner to talk to the City and address its concerns. Davis spoke again to staff at UBS earlier this week, which followed a speech to the Investment Association by trade secretary Liam Fox.
These Brexit big beasts are no longer leaving it to Philip Hammond to sooth City fears. However, while these moves are welcome, there is a growing disconnect between the large institutions that can claim the ear of the PM and the smaller firms which need to read the tea leaves (or the papers) for themselves.
JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon recently said he felt reassured after a private meeting with the PM, after which he spoke of a greater sense of “clarity.” I hear more and more examples of these private reassurances and the question must be asked: why can’t they be made in public? Why can’t the wider business community get the kind of clarity on offer to the global banking giants who know who to call at No 10?
The answer may be bound up in the reality of diplomacy, politics and the sensitivity of Brexit negotiations, but regardless of such considerations the selective conversations between top executives and government contacts (extracts of which always filter through the City streets) risk leaving smaller companies out in the cold – at the very time ministers need to be hugging them close.
It’s time for politicians and officials to start saying with confidence the things they’ve been saying in private.
Housesharing gets reinvented
The great tech and lifestyle pioneers just can’t resist taking bold leaps into the future. Disruption is their game, whether in travel, leisure or living. The thing is, sometimes their attempt to reinvent the wheel leads them to design... a wheel. For example, rival to Uber, Lyft, announced plans for larger vehicles that transport people between set points. Congratulations on inventing the bus. Meanwhile, Airbnb has flirted with building its own developments in which people can book rooms for a fixed period of time. In the old days, this was known as a hotel. The latest example comes courtesy of lifestyle writer Julie Dagenais, who outlined a bold idea in a Canadian magazine which she calls “co-living.” She hails it as “another real millennial innovation from the generation who are always rewriting the rules of the game.” She explains: “Each has their own space, but some rooms are shared.” Julie, I’ve got news for you: you’re describing flatmates.
An Uber or a black cab man? Who knows?
Back when Uber was all the trend, London mayor Sadiq Khan proudly declared himself “an Uber man”. Technically he said “I’m both an Uber and a black cab man.” No harm in that. But you’ll forgive me a smile and an eyebrow raise upon hearing Khan’s latest position which is that he has “never knowingly taken an Uber”. This raises the question: did he think he was just hitching a ride courtesy of a friendly Prius driver? On a serious note, this is the kind of mangled, not-quite-honest, not-quite-clear talking that gives politicians a bad name.
Department for International Trade is mostly understood
News from the Department for International Trade, as a civil service “people survey” finds that 84 per cent of staff “have a clear understanding of the department’s objective and purpose.” Of course, this means that 16 per cent haven’t a clue what they’re meant to be doing and only 48 per cent are satisfied with the leadership. Nevertheless, the vast majority claim to enjoy their work and value their team. Let’s hope this remains the case once we actually leave the EU.