Balance of Power: Meeker May Struggles to Shore Up Her Job

This time last year, Theresa May looked to be the U.K.’s new Iron Lady. Now, she’s trying to avoid being a dead woman walking.

The prime minister takes the stage at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester today, nursing the wounds of a disastrous election and contentious divorce talks with Europe. Rather than the Brexit bravado that dominated last year’s affair, she’ll urge a divided party to “shape up” and focus on policies like social housing.

Looking on is Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the charismatic ex-London mayor whose recent criticism of her Brexit approach came across as a play for power. While both his maneuvering and blunders — including saying one Libyan city might rival Dubai if it could clear the “bodies away” — have infuriated some, he remains one of the few Tories who can whip up a crowd.

May must now overcome the gloom that has descended on her premiership. When asked recently if she was personally happy, she could only reply she “was not miserable.” In contrast, the atmosphere at Labour’s recent conference was downright festive.

May and Johnson as she held the first Cabinet meeting of her new team at 10 Downing Street in June.
Photographer: Leon Neal/Getty Images Europe

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Global Headlines

Fed shortlist | President Donald Trump is getting close to picking a Federal Reserve chair. His advisers have ended their search and handed in a final list of contenders, Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Mohsin report. Current Chair Janet Yellen is still in the running, along with National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn. Fed governor Jerome Powell and Stanford economist John Taylor are also in contention, while another candidate, former Fed governor Kevin Warsh, drew opposition from left and right.

Catalonia crisis escalates | As Catalan separatists dismissed condemnation by Spanish King Felipe VI and vowed nothing will stop them from setting up an independent republic, the National Court in Madrid started investigating possible sedition charges against the regional police chief and three civic leaders who helped organize Sunday’s referendum. There are signs businesses are getting anxious, with Barcelona-based drugmaker Oryzon Genomics announcing it’s moving out of the region.

Lawmakers zero in on Google | YouTube, Gmail and other Alphabet Inc. services are increasingly the focus of congressional probes into whether Russia harnessed U.S. social media networks to sway last year's election. CNN, meanwhile, reported that some Russian-linked ads published on Facebook targeted the crucial swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin. Facebook has fought for years to avoid stricter political ad disclosure rules. 

Macron’s image reversal | Emmanuel Macron, once accused of being a Trojan horse for the Socialists, is now facing criticism he’s governing for the rich, Gregory Viscusi reports. At issue is the French president’s plan to overhaul the tax code, which unions, the opposition and even some members of his own political family complain is too generous to the moneyed classes. 

Afghanistan touts Trump’s strategy | With new Black Hawk helicopters in place and more troops promised, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told Bloomberg’s Iain Marlow the renewed U.S. commitment is already helping the fight against the Taliban. Still, it’s early days for the strategy in America’s longest-running war, with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford cautioning the conflict remains in stalemate. 

COMING UP: Russian President Vladimir Putin joins Bloomberg’s @johnfraher to discuss the latest economic developments shaping policy in Moscow. Watch it live here from 6 a.m. EDT.

And finally... Trump’s efforts to soothe the storm-ravaged U.S. territory of Puerto Rico ranged from costly to clumsy. At one moment, the president was seen tossing paper towel rolls at storm victims like they were game show contestants. At another, he was complaining an anticipated $29 billion aid package would throw the federal budget “a little out of whack.” Hours later, he suggested the bankrupt island's $74 billion debt would need to be wiped clean. Trump faces an even greater challenge to strike the right tone today when he travels to Las Vegas to meet with victims of Monday’s mass shooting.

Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the U.S. territory, much of the island remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water.
Photographer: MANDEL NGAN/AFP
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