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Wednesday's Business and Politics round-up

11 Dec 2019

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Good morning!

US Democrats have revealed formal charges against President Trump, accusing him of abuse of power and obstructing Congress.

The articles were disclosed by the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee and are an important step in impeaching the President. If the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee votes to approve them, they will go to the lower chamber for a vote.

Trump has been accused of withholding aid from Ukraine for domestic political purposes. He has insisted he has done “nothing wrong” and blasted the impeachment process as “madness”.  

The morning's top stories, rounded up for your convenience. 

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What business wants

The IoD has revealed business leaders’ priorities for government action after the General Election, with Brexit support, help with skills, and investment incentives coming out on top. 

The Policy Voice survey, which was taken by 1,008 directors, asked participants to choose which policy areas should be immediate priorities for the new Government. More than a third (37%) prioritise preparing and supporting businesses through Brexit. 

Skills and training (33%), incentives for business investment (31%) and reducing the regulatory burden or delaying regulatory changes (31%) also ranked highly. Three-in-ten directors think digital (30%) and transport infrastructure (30%) are important, respectively. 

Most IoD members report that nationalising utilities and industries would be negative, with three-quarters (75%) pessimistic about bringing broadband under state control. That being said, better broadband is a top priority in terms of infrastructure. 

The survey also asked members about the government’s approach to spending, and more than three-in-four (77%) business leaders report that spending over the next parliament should increase. 

Edwin Morgan, Director of Policy at the IoD, said “By and large, directors agree that the economy needs a shot in the arm, particularly with many firms facing the prospect of Brexit upheaval”. 

He added that directors on the whole think better broadband, transport networks and renewable energy generation are significant, but “taking whole sectors under state control would consume huge amounts of government time and effort while offering no guarantee of improvements”. 

Poll-itical predictions 

A YouGov election poll suggests the Conservatives’ lead has narrowed to the point that a hung parliament cannot be ruled out, with the party predicted to win a majority of just 28.

The multi-level regression and post-stratification polling model (MRP) has seen YouGov interview 100,000 voters based on factors such as previous votes, gender and age, before mapping this on to the demography and characteristics of individual constituencies. 

The poll predicts the Tories are on course to win 339 seats, with Labour on 231, the Liberal Democrats on 15 and 41 for the Scottish National Party. The MRP model accurately predicted the outcome of the last two elections. 

But the poll’s range of possible outcomes gives the Tories anything from 367 seats to just 311. Anthony Wells, YouGov’s Director of Political Research, said that “Based on the model we cannot rule out a hung parliament”. 

Boris Johnson will spend the final day of campaigning in marginal Labour seats in Yorkshire, the Midlands and Wales. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn is also expected to be in the Midlands and Yorkshire. 

Corbyn suffered a blow yesterday after Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth was revealed to have told a friend that Labour was facing “dire” results because voters “can’t stand” the Labour leader. 

Cheers to that

JD Wetherspoon has revealed it intends to invest £200 million in new pubs and hotels, creating 10,000 new jobs over the next four years. It will establish 60 new pubs and enact around 80 pub expansions, as well as launch several new hotels. 

If the plans go ahead, they would result in the pub chain’s workforce of 44,000 to grow by one-fifth of the size. For 10,000 new jobs, each pub or pub extension would need to create about 70 roles.

Founder and chairman Tim Martin said “We are especially pleased that a large proportion of the investment will be in smaller towns and cities which have seen a decline in investment in recent years”. 

Analysts have reacted to the news with scepticism, with one saying the group was already spending the £200 million and another arguing the move reveals the company is taking a bullish stance on the UK economy. 

In 2019 Wetherspoons spent £170 million on capital investment, of which £35 million was on new pubs or pub expansions. A further £77 million was spent on purchasing land where it had previously been a tenant. 

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