The Speaker
Thursday, 13 June 2024 – 04:40

Week in review: Strikes, Megxit, and Biden behind the bar

In the UK

Strikes continue

A 96 hour strike took place between April 11-14 involving all junior doctors in England. Union representatives cite the failure of Steve Barclay, health and social care secretary, to make a credible pay offer. The British Medical Association (BMA) and Barclay remain at an impasse over the demanded 35% pay rise for junior doctors.

Megxit continues

Prince Harry has confirmed he will attend the King’s coronation next month but Meghan will remain in California, receiving significant criticism. Supporters point out that given attitudes towards the couple would likely lead to such criticism either way.

MPs under investigation

Matt Hancock is one of three MPs to be under investigation by parliament’s standards watchdog. Allegations linked to Hancock are based on allegations that he broke the MP’s code of conduct by ‘lobbying the commissioner in a manner calculated or intended to influence his consideration’ of whether a separate breach had been committed.

Scott Benton, Blackpool South MP is under investigation over use of his parliamentary email, in the week following exposure of him offering to lobby ministers and leak confidential policy documents for £4000 a month. Benton has had the whip suspended. Henry Smith, a backbencher for 13 years is under investigation for a potential breach of the rules on using taxpayer funded stationery.

Gender recognition legislation continues to cause a divide

Humza Yousef, the recently appointed first minister of Scotland, is set for a collision with Westminster. The social justice secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, announced on Wednesday that Scottish ministers will mount a court challenge to Westminster’s veto of Holyrood’s gender recognition reform bill. A petition is set to be lodged for a judicial review of Alister Jack’s decision to use section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 to prevent the bill from obtaining royal assent.

Further afield

Biden in Belfast

25 years on from the Good Friday peace agreement, Joe Biden made a four-day visit to Ireland, briefly in Northern Ireland across Tuesday night, followed by a trip south to the Republic of Ireland. Biden is very vocal about his Irish roots, with Irish ancestors having grown up in the country. In addition to official engagements, he, in true Irish fashion, ended up in a pub. Rishi Sunak greeted the President as Air Force One landed at Belfast Airport.

Cannabis coffee shops

Germany is set to legalise cannabis for recreational use, aiming to be the first European country to regulate the sale of cannabis products. A scaled back legislation plan was presented by the health minister on Wednesday, which would allow German cannabis users to rely on home cultivation and cannabis social clubs, in a shift away from the initial plans of licensed shops or pharmacies. The plans will allow adults to grow up to three cannabis plants at home, and buy weed in clubs of up to 500 members. Possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis will be legalised, with a ban placed on advertising and limits on THC for under 21 years old.

Presidential bids continue

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina launched a presidential exploratory committee, indicating his intent to enter the 2024 race. Scott cites a wish to heal America’s divisions as the reason for exploring a run in the White House, in a speech that emphasised his race, evangelical roots, and background as the child of a single mother.

Declared candidates for the Republican party include Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Donald Trump. For the democrats, Robert F Kennedy Jr and Marinna Williamson are the only two to have declared to date, however J Biden stated in January 2022 his intent to run for reelection with Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate. Other declared candidates include Joe Exotic, a businessman and media personality, and Jerome Segal, a research scholar and Bread and Roses Party nominee for president in 2020.

Financial News

Following the collapse of SVB and collapse of Credit Suisse, Klaas Klor, the chair of the Financial Stability Board, has called for tougher rules, pointing to the two crises as a reminder that financial stability is ‘not merely an abstract concept.’ The two episodes demonstrate how the extended period of low interest rates, since the 2008/9 financial crash, introduced fragilities into the financial system, ultimately undermining financial stability. The combined debt of households, companies, and governments when related to GDP has risen to levels not previously seen in peacetime.

A month after the acquisition of SVB’s UK subsidiary by HSBC for £1, 40 commercial bankers have been hired by acquirer. The San Francisco, Boston, and New York-based group will establish a new banking practice focused on tech and healthcare companies, as well as venture capital.

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