Hopefully 2021’s record for having the craziest first week stands for years to come, because so far what we’ve seen is off the charts.
I don’t really know where to start with this. It was going to be Kirsty and Phil, followed by Grand Designs, but instead we got a real time Hollywood action film, where unfortunately it wasn’t scripted and the violence was very real. In the end it took five hours for law enforcement to get things under enough control for congressional leaders to resume their task of confirming Biden’s election win, but in that time four people lost their lives, Trump told the rioters that he loved them and America looked for a brief while like a Banana Republic. Amazingly, whilst this was happening stock markets in the US remained in positive territory.
The condemnation of Trump in mainstream media for his inciteful language at a rally before the rioting is almost universal and his lack of willingness to intervene spoke volumes – to the point that it was actually Mike Pence who ordered in the National Guard, not the president. Intriguingly, the crimes committed were in DC which make them Federal and not state and as such there’s a risk Trump can pre-emptively pardon all of those involved, but we’ll see if that plays out.
Mike Pence stuck to his principles yesterday and refused to intervene in the confirmation proceedings, which led to more than a hundred Republicans across both chambers, led by Ted Cruz, protesting the certification in what would have been a number of long drawn out speeches against certain state validations. After the chaos, a few of those Republicans changed their mind and decided not to continue with the theatrics, but others stayed the course, albeit in a more abridged delivery – maybe they get points for staying loyal to Trump, but it’s a big risk and a long four years until those points might pay off.
Whilst this was all going on the second Georgia Senate run-off election was confirmed as being won by Democrat Jon Ossoff. This gives Democrats a clean sweep of power, now controlling the Senate, the House of Representatives and the White House for the first time since 2011. Expect Joe Biden to use that platform, liberally.
Before all of that, we saw Hong Kong law enforcement rounding up more than fifty pro-democracy advocates. The sweep of the city was done because the government needed to stop “external forces and individuals colluding to undermine China’s stability and security”, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesperson. The arrests have been condemned across the globe and any lingering pretence that Hong Kong remained in any way independent has definitely been removed. China doesn’t seem concerned about the views of the world though. The BBC has a good long read about the immediate situation, but also the back story.
Staying in politics, but the (slightly) less divisive kind: Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to consider postponing Scottish elections that are due in May, if the lockdown is to continue – which it probably will. Ms Sturgeon might be the only party leader reluctant to do so given the SNP’s likely overwhelming popularity, particularly in the wake of Brexit which risks still being an open wound at the point of going to the polls. However, it mightn’t be the worst idea for her to delay as an overwhelming victory might bring forward calls for an independence referendum sooner rather than later, which is something politicians seem to care more about than the general public at this moment in time – in turn risking a vote that people treat with apathy. It’s not Ms Sturgeon’s decision whether they do or don’t go ahead, but she’s got the largest influence. This has all come about as Boris has floated the idea of delaying English elections that happen on the same day.
London hospitals are less than two weeks away from being overwhelmed, according to a briefing of senior doctors which was subsequently leaked. Even on the best case of covid cases only rising by 4% a day London will run out of “general & acute beds” as well as intensive care beds by the 19th January – even with mitigating factors such as taking over more private beds and using a thousand beds from the Nightingale at Excel. This HSJ article is pretty informative.
So today is going to be interesting… there has already been the resignation of the deputy national security advisor in the US and more senior members of Trump’s government are considering throwing in the towel as well. Trump’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been blocked, the former for 24 hours, the latter for 12 hours, so he should be back online soon and that’ll no doubt lead to some ranting. There are inflation numbers due out from Europe which might have a bearing on the value of the single currency and there are some Fed speakers out later that might swing the Dollar – but given it’s relative stability over the last 48 hours, it’s hard to see big moves happening on the back of normal events.