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Under The Radar – 05 November

By Clay Banks for Unsplash

This week, we discuss:

  1. Republican Wins Virginia Governor’s Race

  2. Humanitarian Disaster in Ethiopia

  3. The Return of Air Travel?

Republican Wins Virginia Governor’s Race

What Happened?

The Democrats suffered a blow on Wednesday morning when they lost the Virginia governorship, as Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe in a state President Biden carried by 10 points.

What does it mean?

This election had widely been framed as an early referendum on Biden’s presidency. And this couldn’t have come at a worse time, with the vote coinciding with the President’s approval rating sinking to 42% as his legislative agenda stalled in Congress. The defeat will unnerve Democrats, who are facing an uphill battle to maintain control of the House and Senate in next year’s midterm elections. Biden’s social safety net and climate plan were already facing difficulties, with West Virginia centrist Senator, Joe Manchin, refusing to vote for the trillion-dollar social spending bill. Some have argued that this result may spook Democrats in swing seats that leaning too far to the left could leave them vulnerable to a Republican insurgency. Yet Republicans won here by stoking cultural issues – namely critical race theory – not Biden’s economic agenda. In reality, this result should force Democrats to get on with the job of governing. On the campaign trail, activists couldn’t point to any progress on Biden’s agenda, whilst the party top brass preferred to centre the entire campaign on fearmongering about Trump. This strategy won’t be enough to keep hold of congress next year. On the other hand, this election signals the way forward for Republican candidates. Youngkin successfully kept Trump onside, but at arm’s length. He didn’t allow the former President to campaign in the state but adopted much of his rhetoric and happily accepted his endorsement. This appears to have kept enough moderate Republicans and independents on side, especially in the suburbs, without alienating the rural base. Regardless of the noise surrounding this result, it doesn’t predetermine the midterms next year. The winner of those elections will be the party that most ruthlessly applies the lessons illuminated by this one.

Humanitarian Disaster in Ethiopia

What happened? Ethiopia has declared a nationwide state of emergency after forces from the northern state of Tigray threatened to march towards the capital, Addis Ababa. On Monday, the government even called on citizens to register weapons and defend the city.

What does this mean?

Ethiopia has been in a state of violent conflict for the past year, with several human rights abuses being reported even though international press and the UN have essentially been banned from the country and the disputed regions. Independent human rights groups and organisations claim that tens of thousands of people have died already due to war and starvation. The Tigray forces’ spokesperson, however, has attempted to play down these claims, unconvincingly arguing that they are “absolutely untrue, at least on the level these organisations are alleging”. The United Nations has called for peace in the region, with the European Union and the US threatening trade sanctions. However, these moves would only push the country further into violence and chaos, since ethnic and regional conflicts are unlikely to be resolved by appealing to the common good. The Tigray forces are attempting to regain control of Ethiopia, after holding it for 27 years until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office and sidelined them. Unfortunately, with the current lack of global leadership or willingness to intervene in complex foreign conflicts, the situation in Ethiopia is likely to deteriorate further.

The Return of Air Travel?

What happened?

The airline industry was one of the most pandemic ravaged sectors. Yet there are signs that the industry is enjoying a revival, with Wizz Air announcing a return to profit and Ryanair adding 250 new routes this winter. What does it mean?

The airline industry has come a long way from June 2020, when UK air travel had reduced by 97% and revenue losses mounted to £20.1 billion. EasyJet subsequently posted a 90% reduction in revenues during the last three months of 2020, matched by an 87% decline in passenger numbers. However, there have been strong signs of a rebound for the industry this week. Wizz Air has turned a profit for the first time since 2019, having returned to pre-pandemic passenger numbers, whilst Ryanair is in an expansive mood. Despite the Irish operator’s passenger numbers still lagging below pre-pandemic figures, in a show of confidence the airline is launching more than 250 new routes this winter with 116 airports in 34 countries. Airlines appear to be taking a leaf out of the Prime Minister’s playbook by adopting a dash a boosterism in their business strategy and communications – a clever ploy to maintain brittle consumer confidence in air travel this winter. And whilst the next few months will undoubtedly be challenging, this week’s news is a vote of confidence for air travel following a very difficult eighteen months.

This week’s must reads

  1. ‘Britannia Chained: why the legacy of Brexit threatens Boris Johnson’s Global Britain’ by Tim Ross for The New Statesman

  2. ‘Cop26 has to be about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. All else is a distraction’ by George Monbiot for The Guardian

  3. ‘Do we trust MPs? They’re about to find out’ by Paul Goodman for The Times

  4. ‘Feckless Biden’s presidency is already a failure’ by Con Coughlin for The Telegraph

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