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Deliveroo and Just Eat deals show politics rules trustbuster – Financial Times

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You can take the man out of politics, but you can’t take politics out of the man. Two big Competition and Markets Authority decisions of the past week — first to wave through Amazon’s investment in Deliveroo and then Takeaway.com’s takeover of Just Eat — have CMA chair and ex-MP Andrew Tyrie’s fingerprints all over them.

Both were controversial cases for the trust buster to take on. Under previous iterations of the competition watchdog, the deals would probably never have been called in.

The CMA’s recently-found desire to be the biggest, baddest regulator in the fightback against the dominance and spread of big tech was no doubt the main reason why Deliveroo’s funding round got stuck in a year-long regulatory review process. The grounds for blocking it looked flimsy. Would Amazon, which stopped delivering takeaways in 2018, have a sudden change of heart if its deal with Deliveroo was blocked and launch a fierce new competitor? Could Deliveroo, with its sideline in corner shop grocery deliveries, constitute a potential competitor to Amazon Fresh? Really?

But once the CMA had made that case for calling in Deliveroo, it was hard-pressed to waive through the Just Eat takeover, a same-sector deal where the acquirer, Takeaway.com, had also recently quit the market.

Andrew Tyrie, CMA Chair and former Conservative MP © PA Archive/PA Images

Covid-19 gets the CMA off the hook. Phew. It would be a bold but deaf regulator that made trouble for the businesses that have enabled restaurants to keep cooking and home-cooks in lockdown to take a night off. Easy to get dewy-eyed and dub them essential to keeping the home fires burning. By giving the Deliveroo deal the (provisional) green light on the grounds that it would fold if not, the watchdog avoided being spatchcocked on the merits of its arguments. And once Deliveroo’s deal was through, it was hard to hold out on Takeaway’s Just Eat tie-up.

In clearing both, the CMA proves to the government that it will not make political problems over points of principle. That does not mean there are not problems with the Deliveroo decision fudge, though.

The CMA has previously been loath to approve deals on the grounds of the “failing firm” defence used by Deliveroo. Plenty of companies laid low by Covid-19 will argue that if Deliveroo clears that hurdle, they should be allowed to tie-up with rivals too. The CMA can’t let them win that argument and keep its tough guy image. The watchdog must balance its political heart with its legal brain if it is to be credible and consistent. Here, the heart has ruled the head.

De Beers draws warmth from Anglo

The diamond industry is on ice, from beginning to middle to end. The market for diamonds — also known as “ice” because their dazzle is cold and they draw heat from warm objects — has been hit hard by coronavirus. De Beers, which with Alrosa of Russia unearths more than two-thirds of the world’s sparklers, has certainly drawn heat from its owner, Anglo American. On Thursday, it lowered production guidance for the year by a fifth.

Last month De Beers canned its regular sale of diamonds in Botswana because buyers from Israel, India and China could not travel. It is unlikely travel will unfreeze in time for the next auction in a month or so.

The market is suffering from top to bottom. Consumers and merchants from Antwerp to China are in lockdown or emerging from it. So too are the cutters in India, who buff up about 90 per cent of all mined gems. Most producers, whether in Southern Africa or Canada, have been forced to put mines on care and maintenance. The longer the lockdowns last, the harder and more expensive it will be for them to ramp production back up.

The market was already fragile. Supply has been abundant. Post-millennial generations are not wedded to solitaires in the way their elders were. Credit-squeezed diamantaires have been working through their inventories rather than buying new stock.

Big miners such as De Beers have put brakes on production. Nonetheless, prices had fallen a fifth over a year even before Covid-19 hit. Signs of improvement in late 2019 evaporated in March. Alrosa said last week that average prices of its rocks fell 17 per cent quarter on quarter.

Alrosa and De Beers can further cut supply to protect prices and weather the cold. Smaller miners with weak balance sheets — notably heavily indebted Petra, which bought its mines Cullinan and Finch from De Beers a dozen years ago — can’t.

Petra complained this month that cheapskates offered silly prices at its latest auction. Overall rough diamond prices offered were down 27 per cent on the previous sale. It planned to withdraw stones to be sold privately or later. However, £500m-plus in debt robs the group of options. In better times, it and rivals would be mopped up in a wave of consolidation. That is unlikely until lockdown lifts and the market thaws.

CMA: cat.rutterpooley@ft.com
Diamonds: kate.burgess@ft.com

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The politics of a pandemic – POLITICO

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Guest host Eugene Daniels talks with national political correspondent David Siders about how, three months in, the coronavirus crisis is simultaneously upending and reaffirming political allegiances.

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Bike Share a Victim of Anti-Urban Identity Politics – Raise the Hammer

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Bike Share a Victim of Anti-Urban Identity Politics

Strategy only makes sense if we’re all trying to build on our common values and interests, and the zero-sum politics of resentment are antithetical to common values.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 28, 2020

With 1,000 bikes, 26,000 active members and 350,000 passenger trips a year, Hamilton Bike Share is a bargain at a gross annual operating cost of $700,000. But Hamilton City Council cannot resist the atavistic urge to put identity politics ahead of strategic planning.


Hamilton Bike Share hub at Chedoke Golf Course

After yet another ultramarathon session of ocean-boiling hyperbolic bikeshedding over a project with utterly miniscule costs – we are talking, after all, about 0.02 percent of the city’s annual budget – Council deadlocked on whether to fund the continued operation of Hamilton Bike Share for the rest of the year.

Instead, Councillors voted to spend an unknown amount of money to warehouse the bikes once the system shuts down on June 1. Amazingly, the motion by Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann would have funded the system using money already earmarked for local spending in wards 1, 2 and 3.

That is to say, the councillors opposed to this motion voted to overrule the wards 1-3 councillors spending money from their own dedicated ward capital reserves to keep the program running.

This is a gross double standard and the kind of anti-urban hypocrisy that has been drearily common over the past two decades since amalgamation.

Legacy of Anti-Urban Resentment

The most vocal anti-urban sentiment has been from angry suburban leaders who never wanted to get bolted onto Hamilton through amalgamation (but were happy to have Hamilton subsidize their infrastructure through regional government, of course).

But amalgamation – which was imposed on all of us by the Conservative Mike Harris government – has left the old city subject to the one-way whims and caprices of anti-urban resentment and grievance, which suburban councillors openly embody and shamelessly encourage to this day.

The framing of every issue in us-vs-them terms is deliberate and debilitating for a city trying to build common ground and move forward.

In the face of such grievance-based identity politics, strategic plans don’t matter. Strategy only makes sense if we’re all trying to build on our common values and interests, and the zero-sum politics of resentment are antithetical to common values.

Likewise, the facts don’t matter. This decision isn’t about making the most cost-effective use of scarce resources, it’s about driving a wedge into the body politic and pandering for rhetorical points against the ‘other’, no matter the actual cost.

Nor is consistency a factor. Many of the councillors complaining that bike share doesn’t serve their wards are the same councillors who only agreed to allow it in the first place as long as it didn’t go in their wards.

Stubborn Refusal to Learn and Grow

Facts and arguments need to take root in a worldview to influence our decisions. The angry, anti-urban worldview that drives Hamilton’s identity politics is stony ground indeed. It is the place where so many transformative ideas go to die.

Anti-urban resentment is a failing strategy for Hamilton as a whole, but it works well for the cynical politicians who stoke it. Keeping their constituents misinformed and bitter keeps them employed even as it harms the city as a whole – including their constituents, who deserve better.

On the rare occasion where an inclusive urban project actually goes ahead and is successful, that just makes the aggrieved anti-urban haters even more bitter and resentful. It certainly doesn’t inspire them to reconsider their opposition to it.

For example, how many lower-city one-way dead zones do we need to convert into vibrant two-way people places before the haters finally acknowledge that city streets work better when they are more inclusive?

How many new protected two-way cycle tracks have to fill up with cyclists before we are willing to acknowledge that there is a huge latent demand for safe cycling infrastructure?

Identity Politics Trumps Strategy

Bike Share was widely (by the haters) expected to be a total failure. Instead, pound for pound it has been one of the most successful systems in North America: built and operated on a shoestring budget, it achieved 26,000 active members and 350,000 trips a year.

Far from mollifying the critics, its success just made them hate it even more. Bike Share has had a target on its back since the day it launched.

How do you reason with bad faith? How do you negotiate with malice? How do you build on a foundation of cynicism, grievance and deliberate misinformation? After close to two decades of caring about what happens in this city, I am no closer to a workable answer now than I was in 2003.

This city is broken. I have no idea how we can fix it. But until we do, every new project faces a hurricane of resistance, every existing project lives in existential jeopardy and each tiny step we take upward is on a slurry of unstable land that is itself inexorably sliding backwards.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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Liberals' ability to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny plays into system of 'image politics,' critics say – National Post

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OTTAWA — The Liberal government has avoided months of parliamentary scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead using televised daily briefings with the prime minister to further its system of “image politics,” an expert in democratic process says.

The Liberals and New Democratic Party agreed earlier this week to suspend parliamentary proceedings until September 21, equipping Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a “tremendous amount of power over the summer,” said Kathy Brock, professor at Queen’s University.

The decision comes after Trudeau has for months appeared in the House of Commons on a limited basis, instead using his daily briefings outside Rideau Cottage to announce major new spending measures and take questions from the media.

He for sure prefers the Rideau Cottage model

“This government is very focused on messaging and image politics and that meant that it wanted to respond to the needs of Canadians when the pandemic came up,” said Brock, who has served in various advisory roles to all three major political parties over the last 30 years.

“But when they started to face criticism for not acting as quickly as possible, the prime minister turned to the easiest tool, which is having briefings with the media outside Rideau Cottage,” she said.

The approach has been met with criticism by opposition parties and parliamentary experts, who say politicians have not had adequate time to press the Trudeau government on some of its largest spending measures, which now top an estimated $150 billion. They also say the government overreached in an earlier attempt to equip itself with the authority to tax, spend and loan money with almost no parliamentary oversight for nearly two years, well beyond the expected timeframe of the pandemic.

Other observers point out that Parliament would typically rise for the summer months regardless, and that “hybrid” forms of Question Period, which include virtual questions and answer sessions, have continued for the past few months.

“The cut-off in June is not an aberration,” said Lori Turnbull, professor of political science at Dalhousie University. However, she questioned “why there’s such a desire” to close off access to other forms of scrutiny, like private members bills or written questions to Parliament.

Turnbull, like others, has been surprised by the Liberals’ ability to secure the support of opposition parties to restrict in-person sittings of Commons.

“Sometimes I forget that this is a minority government,” she said, “It’s incredible what this government has done. We usually see more push and pull between the opposition and the government.”

The NDP has faced criticism for making an agreement with the Liberal party to suspend Parliament because it allows for the government to sidestep proper scrutiny.

NDP House leader Peter Julian pushed back against those claims in an interview Thursday, saying the deal secured four sitting days in the House of Commons during the summer — a provision that other parties were not pushing for.

“There’s been a lot of exaggeration,” Julian said.

Sometimes I forget that this is a minority government

The NDP opposed a Conservative proposal that would have had regular in-person sittings in the Commons well into June, in which a select group of roughly 50 people would attend in order to maintain social distancing measures. The proposal would have allowed Parliament to exert its full powers before summer break, but Julian argued it would have needlessly excluded the majority of MPs in Canada.

“I think it’s a very Ottawa-centric interpretation,” he said.

A spokesperson for Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez reiterated that all parties agreed to the March 13 motion to suspend Parliament until April 20. The agreement with the NDP allows for the continuation of a special COVID-19 committee that meets several times a week, but is not afforded the regular powers of the House.

“We believe it is a responsible plan that ensures accountability and transparency, and respects public health advice,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.

Candice Bergen, Conservative House leader, said there has been a push for months by the Liberal government to avoid regular parliamentary sittings. MPs in recent weeks had been sitting in-person on a limited basis once a week.


Conservative House leader Candice Bergen.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/File

“I was clear with Pablo that we felt Parliament needed to resume,” Bergen said. “But that was clearly not what the government wanted and they found a dance partner in the NDP.”

She said Trudeau has instead opted to convey the Liberals approach to COVID-19 through the televised briefings at his official residence, where media ask daily questions.

“He for sure prefers the Rideau Cottage model,” Bergen said, adding that media “is not a substitute for the official Opposition.”

Brock, at Queen’s University, said the Rideau Cottage meetings give Trudeau more time to craft his own message on a daily basis, unimpeded, while taking only a select number of questions from journalists.

“It certainly operates in the Liberals’ favour, because they’re receiving media attention and it seems very positive because they’re responding to a crisis,” she said. “But it means that they aren’t getting tough questions to the same extent on other, lesser known files.”

• Email: jsnyder@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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