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Each day FT Leader writers on the Editorial Board meet to discuss the topics to be considered for Leader columns. Here are the issues that dominated this week:

At the weekend, our Editorial Board had another crack at the vexed topic of home vs office working , following an FT analysis showing UK commuting was down by a quarter on the pre-pandemic period.

Our conclusion: “While labour markets are tight, as in the US and UK, employees are freer to put pressure on employers that do not provide the working environment they want, or to shun them altogether.

That situation is unlikely to last. It should eventually become easier for companies to assert the degree of flexibility they prefer.”

We also tackled Meta after the company formerly known as Facebook lost another few billion dollars of market capitalisation thanks to Mark Zuckerberg’s giant gamble on the metaverse.

Investors have little cause to complain about Zuckerberg’s headstrong behaviour, given it is hardly a secret that the group’s two-class share structure makes him all-powerful. But our leader concluded that reform is vital.

“Meta is a reminder that as even the most innovative public companies grow in size and maturity, the potential benefits of effective governance and investor safeguards — such as a sunset clause on two-tier structures — only increase.”

In the coming days we will tackle the vast geopolitical implications of tight semiconductor supplies compounded by Covid and US-China tensions. Are chips the new oil?
Biden’s last-ditch attempt to woo voters

Next week’s US midterm elections are unusual: America’s democratic system itself is on the ballot. About half the Republicans running for federal or statewide office believe the presidency was stolen from Donald Trump in 2020.

Biden is making a last-ditch attempt to win over voters with just days to go.

But his Democrats are heading for a weak performance. Inflation is at a 40-year high; crime is up. Yesterday, the Fed raised interest rates by 0.75 percentage points for the fourth time in a row — the central bank’s latest salvo in its bid to bring down inflation. Jay Powell, the Fed’s chair, warned rates would peak at an even higher level than expected.

All that is weighing heavily on voters’ minds. Republicans hold the poll edge in the last days of the campaign. And Biden’s approval rating is far below the 50 per cent that has previously been needed for the Democrats to keep control of Congress.

But Ed Luce argues that it is less voters’ everyday concerns, and more the belief that the US elections are riddled with mass fraud, that is cause for concern in the long term. That is the kind of belief that takes root, with the potential to upend democracy.

Gillian Tett explains why some experts are starting to fear that the next US presidential election could be its last .

The US has reliable local supplies of natural gas, which does give it an advantage when it comes to attracting investment. It has a rare chance to woo big European companies at a time when supply chains are in flux, as Brooke Masters points out .

Chief Twit moves fast

Elon Musk — or “Chief Twit” as he briefly described himself in his Twitter bio this week — has wasted no time in stamping his mark on the social media platform.

A flurry of announcements, including axing up to half the workforce in a major cost-cutting overhaul after his $44bn buyout, landed this week.

The Tesla billionaire has asked staff to work around the clock on his selected projects, most notably an $8 a month subscription service that will verify users.

But disruption and uncertainty come at a price: Musk faces concerns from advertisers , the source of most of Twitter’s revenues, who worry that his plans to loosen content moderation rules will lead to chaos on the platform. L’Oréal has suspended advertising .

As Richard Waters points out , Musk faces two problems. The first is to cement Twitter’s role as an open marketplace for ideas without turning it into a “hellscape”.

His second problem is Twitter’s failure to break out of a relatively narrow business niche. Musk has set his sights on reaching a far bigger audience than Twitter attracts at present, while also moving beyond advertising to make money from payments and commerce.

Mischief and delay characterised Musk’s modus operandi in securing the deal in the first place. Now he owns Twitter. But whether he is able to make all the changes he wants to at the speed he desires has yet to be proven.

This week, Musk changed his Twitter bio again to “Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator”.

For now, the only sure thing is that Musk is taking Twitter back to the drawing board.

Sunak’s U-turns pile up

Liz Truss, the former UK prime minister, discovered to her cost last month that disruption at speed comes at a price. The disastrous “mini” Budget that she and then-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled nearly crashed the economy.

More consequences from the short-lived Truss era came to light this week. Apollo Global, the US-based private capital group, took advantage of the crisis by snapping up $1.1bn of assets from UK pension funds .

The group’s Athene unit accounted for about a third of the collateralised loan obligations sold by the pension funds, as they desperately raised cash to meet collateral calls last month.

So far, Rishi Sunak, Truss’s replacement, has taken a cautious approach. He has spent much of this week reversing course on his Conservative party leadership bid promises .

Sunak has executed about half a dozen U-turns since he replaced Truss, including a reversal on a promise to fine people £10 every time they miss appointments with doctors, and reinstating a ban on fracking for shale gas.

He has also accepted his target of reviewing or repealing all post-Brexit EU law during his first 100 days as prime minister will not be met. His plans for a “Brexit delivery unit” have been quietly jettisoned .

Despite pledging to cut taxes, Sunak and his chancellor Jeremy Hunt are now exploring tax increases — and public spending cuts worth up to £50bn a year to fill a hole in public finances.

All that makes it harder for Sunak’s Conservatives to win the next election, especially after the government presided over a financial crisis.

“Voters don’t forget governments being forced to make U-turns by financial markets,” says one pollster.

Writing in the FT this week, George Soros urged Sunak to issue perpetual bonds to reassure financial markets after the chaos caused by Truss and Kwarteng.

Best of the rest of business news

Another Sunak U-turn is his decision to attend the COP27 climate summit in Egypt next week, joining more than 100 heads of state. His initial snub — just a year after the UK hosted COP26 — raised questions about his commitment to, and the UK government’s ability to lead on, climate policy.

Meanwhile, as the energy crisis continues, Ben van Beurden, Shell’s outgoing chief executive, is adamant that oil and gas companies must “embrace” paying more tax to support society’s most vulnerable people.

But the message did not appear to have reached the accountants at Shell’s UK arm in time for the company’s most recent results. The energy major, which has moved its headquarters to London from the Netherlands, paid zero tax in the UK in the first three quarters of 2022, during which time it racked up global profits of more than $30bn.

By contrast, BP will pay about $2.5bn in UK taxes this year, including $800mn under the so-called “energy profits levy”, better known as the windfall tax

David Sheppard argues the discrepancy highlights the UK’s hodgepodge of payments, mired in complexity and misaligned incentives - and why calls for a simplified system are growing.

And finally, leading climate scientists this week accused the Science Based Targets initiative’s approach to measuring corporate emissions of being “ critically flawed ”.

The SBTi has become an arbiter of corporate net zero plans, and its approval confers credibility. But it does not check the accuracy of the underlying emissions data reported by companies, and does not require the data to be verified by a third party.

In a letter , the scientists challenged the oversight body for corporate targets over the accuracy of the data supplied to it by companies on their greenhouse gas emissions.

According to them, the SBTi “does not appear to ensure sufficient scrutiny of the self-reported greenhouse gas data”.
Board directors are alert to cyber attacks

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