Friday 21 March 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: George's Re-borne Popularity

Oh what a difference a day makes...

Once more, George Osborne emerged from the door of 10 Downing Street to present the Spring budget, clutching the box that has so often caused City-folk and the public alike to see red with anger.

As usual, the press were gathered; crowded around like a pack of hyenas ready to set upon and tear apart Osborne’s carefully worded document.

However it was not a shade of red that the City saw on this occasion but a fine shade of sky-blue, indicative of a budget and economy finally enjoying a sunny outlook.

It is easy to see why; the world of corporate is set to become markedly easier - the budget for exports is to be increased to £3bn, the Annual Investment Allowance for companies increased to £500,000, and R&D will receive a boost in the form of £220m and a 3.5% raise in the rate of cash credit payable to loss-making SMEs conducting R&D which do not have corporation tax liabilities.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this week’s budget was not what the budget contained, however, but the effect that it had on the reputation of its owner. George Osborne’s has had a notoriously negative reception in the press over the past few years, battling to maintain composure with a struggling economy. Who could forget the coverage surrounding the “Omnishambles” of 2012 and the famously controversial “pasty tax”?

After the release of this rather more popular budget, however, it seems that Osborne has become the flavour of the month - on Friday morning The Sun published an article on how Osborne’s popularity is on the rise following the budget, with 37 of voters saying that he is doing a good job as Chancellor. This was a marked improvement on the figures released just a couple of months ago that painted Osborne as a man disliked.

Even Alistair Heath, City AM’s rather out-spoken editor, tweeted an unusually supportive article on Friday morning:

@AllisterHeath: My @cityam column: Labour would be mad to oppose George Osborne’s great pensions liberation …

So what is the underlying cause of Osborne’s new popularity? Is the public now recognising a job well done? Or is it just the warm, fuzzy feeling of an economy back on track which Osborne is lucky to be sitting at the centre of?

To some extent Osborne’s popularity will be due to both. He has dealt the British economy a good hand and so should be able to savour a brief moment of good favour. But it is also clear that his sudden lurch in popularity is the side-product of the British economy gaining momentum.

This week’s good news should serve as a lesson to those managing communications: no matter what the Company, who the CEO or what the contract, public opinion is often dictated by large-scale national issues over which neither the Company nor the communications manager has any control over. The job of communications agent is therefore to be on top of any industry happenings or national issues that could affect the entities that they represent, and to be able to react and adapt as necessary.

This week the Abchaps decided that as Spring has undoubtedly sprung into action in the City, it was time to throw a party! The excitement bubbling away in the technology sector was the focus of the event, and we were lucky enough to welcome over 100 companies and advisers into our 125 Old Broad Street office. Medtech, cleantech, biotech, fintech – you name it; we discussed it!

The LSE Media group also held a fascinating event which one of the Abchaps was invited along too. The BBC presenter, Justin Webb, explained his views on ‘the News from America’ as well as current trends such as social media and information aggregation in journalism.

Simon Newsham, who previously owned the tax law practice Newsham Tax Solicitors, has joined Winckworth Sherwood as a partner of the tax team. He previously headed the tax practice at Dorsey & Whitney, and his career has lead him through Macfarlanes and KPMG.

Monica Ma left her role as a partner at Simmons & Simmons to join Keystone Law. Monica is part of the pensions and incentives team.

Lucy Harrold has also joined Keystone Law, where she is now part of the intellectual property division. Lucy was previously a partner at Stephenson Harwood.

“Omnishambles” - A neologism first used in the BBC political satire The Thick of It. The word refers to a situation which is seen as shambolic from all possible perspectives.

One can never go wrong by immersing oneself in the world of art. This Saturday, the Royal College of Art’s annual fundraising exhibition and sale will be held at the RCA gallery at the Battersea site. RCA students, along with work by established artists, illustrators and designers and famous names will be selling their postcard-size artworks.

For cruise lovers, the sixth annual London Cruise Show will be held this weekend at Olympia. This will be the Europe’s biggest cruise expo, parading a range of ships of all sizes: from small to modern resort style. This exhibition would be perfect for experienced sailors and curious cruisers alike!

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