Theresa May’s reshuffle was memorable for all the wrong reasons: a wrong name was announced and ministers refused to budge.
To this list of regrettable incidents we can add the treatment of financial services. Despite contributing £70bn to Treasury coffers each year (over 10 per cent of government receipts) the associated ministerial portfolio appeared almost to be an afterthought. As if, come late evening, officials realised they’d left someone out. John Glen, who was busy looking after arts and heritage before the move, announced he was “delighted and shocked” after being dropped into the role – replacing Stephen Barclay who had just started getting to grips with the brief after a mere seven months in the post.
Glen is the 11th City minister in 10 years. That’s an appalling state of affairs. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive (and perhaps Glen will be excellent) but at a time when the City is grappling with huge uncertainty, a bit more stability and consideration from the government wouldn’t hurt.
The latest crypto nonsense
My inbox can be a strange place, flooded as it is each day by a wave of hopeful PRs. This week’s favourite was headed: Introducing Dentacoin, the bitcoin of dentistry. More fool me if this turns out to be the next big thing, but I confess I hit delete before reading. We also learned this week that Kodak, who most people assumed was dead and buried, saw its stocks surge after announcing that it would use blockchain technology to track the ownership of photographs. Already an iced-tea maker and a furniture company have reaped the market gains that come with flirting with the crypto-craze. The question is, who’s buying it?
Matt Hancock swipes at the Lords
Given President Trump’s repeated attacks on the free press, Steven Spielberg’s new journalistic epic, The Post, makes a timely arrival on our screens. Set in the newsroom of The Washington Post in the years following the Vietnam war, it premiered in London this week – with stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep telling the audience that the press exists “to serve the governed, not the governors”. While Hollywood’s finest were singing the virtues of a free press in the West End, members of the House of Lords voted to make journalists’ lives harder. Peers hijacked the Data Protection Bill in a bid to end an exemption that currently protects journalists handling personal data for the purposes of, well, journalism. The Lords, unelected and unaccountable, don’t like it and want to push ahead with the more draconian elements of the Leveson Inquiry. Thankfully, the first act of the new culture secretary, Matt Hancock, was to slam the Lords’ decision. Good on him.
Virgin Trains has more important things to get right than its values
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Virgin Trains, who were accused of sexism after inappropriate tweets sent to a female customer from their corporate account. Then there’s the criticism they face for their contractual shenanigans on the East Coast Line. All told, their reputation took a bit of a hit. How to win back public support? By banning the Daily Mail from their trains, of course. Apparently the paper is contrary to Virgin’s values. I don’t care about their ‘values’ – I just wish their Wi-Fi worked and their trains didn’t smell like a sewer.
Take Khan's new analysis with a pinch of salt
Nobody can accurately model the outcome of Brexit, and for that reason all attempts to do so should get a fair hearing and be subject to the usual scepticism with which we must treat political and economic predictions. With that in mind, Sadiq Khan’s latest contribution to the debate should be taken with a pinch of salt. The consultancy that compiled his report, Cambridge Econometrics, is home to some committed anti-Brexit campaigners, which may explain the pessimistic findings.