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Good morning. Rishi Sunak’s set-to with his Greek opposite number, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has entered a second day. Downing Street has accused Mitsotakis of breaking a promise that he would not use his London visit to publicly call for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures (an agreement that Athens denies).

Is the row a deliberate ploy by Rishi Sunak, a so-called “dead cat” (when you want to get out of a period of temporary political difficulty so you say something outrageous to distract attention from your woes)? No.

One clue to that is that, visibly, various government ministers have been left flat-footed trying to explain what, exactly, Sunak’s deal is here. Demonstrably this isn’t a political ploy by Downing Street, because if it were then government ministers would have a line to take. This row reflects Sunak’s genuine beliefs and commitments — though I think my fellow editorial board members are right to regard the whole thing as a pointless distraction.

The other, rather bigger hint that the government’s row with Greece is not a dead cat is that the government is actually having quite a good week all things considered. There is a ray of light for the NHS consultant strikes, which Downing Street will hope, not unreasonably, is also the beginning of the end of the junior doctor dispute.

Elsewhere, the sculptures issue means that the government’s wooing of business in general and financial services in particular is not getting the attention it deserves. Some advocate thoughts on that in today’s note.

Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Read the previous edition of the newsletter here. Please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to

Everyone thinks they have the safest graveyard at home

Sometimes a politician uses a phrase that, fairly or unfairly, has a very long afterlife. Pat McFadden’s unflattering comparison of the Bank of England under Mark Carney to an “unreliable boyfriend” (“One day hot, one day cold, and the people on the other side of the message don’t know where they stand”) never went away for the remainder of Carney’s term.

Now Bim Afolami, the new City minister, has coined a phrase that I think will have a similar afterlife, warning British regulators that while safety is important, so too is attracting investment and innovation and boosting competitiveness. Afolami, speaking at the Financial Times Global Banking Summit, said watchdogs “need to realise that if you’re regulating a market, in any area, there’s no point having the safest graveyard”.

Just as McFadden wasn’t the first politician to convey some concerns about the use (or lack thereof) of Carney’s “forward guidance” policy, Afolami is not the first Conservative politician, or even the first minister, to warn that UK regulators are prioritising safety and risk management over fostering growth. Last week, the government set out plans to fortify the growth duty that applies to dozens of British watchdogs. Afolami’s words are a more elegant version of Jeremy Hunt’s remarks after the Competition and Markets Authority initially blocked the Microsoft/Activision Blizzard merger:

I would not want to weaken [the CMA’s independence] at all, but I do think it’s important all our regulators grasp their wider responsibilities for economic growth.

A more creative turn of phrase often makes people sit up and take notice. The line about the “safest graveyard” is going to start becoming a bit of a thing, I think, when Conservative politicians want to air their anxieties about their government’s own plans to toughen regulation, whether of new industries or of old ones. It’s also, of course, part of Afolami’s own charm offensive as a newly appointed City minister.

There’s a red-vs-blue angle here, too. Both the Conservatives and Labour have posed pretty compelling growth strategies for things that the UK builds and makes, from “full expensing” to more money for quantum research and artificial intelligence to Labour’s proposal to reform planning. But Labour, too, has little concrete to say about financial services. Given that it is still overwhelmingly likely that Labour will form the next government, opposition warnings that Keir Starmer’s administration is turning the UK into the world’s “safest graveyard” might also become a recurrent theme of the next half decade.

Now try this

I was very sad to read about the death of Russell Norman, the restaurateur who reshaped much of the British food scene (his obituary by Harriet Fitch Little can be read here).

Brutto, the 31st and last restaurant Norman founded, is one of my favourite places in the world. I and one of my best friends regularly eat there . (My self-indulgent order: a French 75 to start, the lardo on toast to follow, the meat ragu, the steak, and finally the tiramisu: this is one reason why we tend to go for the 9:30pm table, because you need to work up an appetite to get all of that in). His new cookbook of the same name is becoming a favourite also.

It’s a reminder to me that I should write more thank you notes to people after I eat somewhere or savor a film or a play — it’s not quite the new year but it’s a good late 2023 resolution, I think.

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