The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Obama faces only hard choices in Mideast


The conventional wisdom in Washington these days is that a newly empowered president, freed from the political constraints of reelection, will have more discretion, drive and determination to take on the Middle East’s most intractable problems.

Don’t believe it. This looks a lot more compelling on paper than in practice. Should President Barack Obama be tempted to embrace it, he may well find himself on the short end of the legacy stick.

Once again many on the left are summoning up the spirit of Obama unchained. Those who saw a new kind of American president in the Middle East – tough on Israel; sensitive to the Islamists and the Arabs (see his March 2010 Cairo speech), and bent on engaging the world in a spirit of mutual tolerance and respect – hope for his return.

The president may well try to deal with some of the region’s knotty problems. But it will be in a more deliberate and transactional manner – not with the transformational zeal of his first year in office. Here’s why:

Can we trust the Autumn Statement?


By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.

The Autumn budget is one of two scheduled statements the Chancellor gives each year to inform the public about tax and spend plans and provide the latest growth forecasts. These budget statements are useful not only for the public, but also for investors in our debt, rating agencies and global businesses. Hence they are a big deal, and it is important that they are accurate.

However, the latest statement delivered by George Osborne didn’t quite ring true. Let’s look at growth forecasts first. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), who creates this forecast, revised down 2012 GDP for the second time to -0.1% from the original forecast of 0.8%. So rather than grow at a modest, but positive, rate the economy is now expected to contract this year. If you invested in the UK partly based on this data, you could be forgiven for being rather cheesed off that your investment had yet to bear fruit.

The Leveson Whitewash

–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

If you ask a lawyer what to do, he’ll recommend a legal remedy – what do you expect? In the same way, many of our politicians have a background as lawyers, so no wonder we have such a proliferation of unnecessary laws. Besides, it does provide plenty of work for old pals…

Why Osborne should use venture capital to drive the British growth agenda

–Simon Cook is CEO if DFJ Esprit. The opinions expressed are his own.–

With George Osborne’s Autumn Statement due to be announced on Wednesday, vehicles to boost the British economy have once again been thrust into the spotlight. Venture capital, much discussed and essential to the government’s innovation-led recovery, is uniquely designed to grow companies from small concerns into large multi-national organisations, and the government could be doing far more to support development of these high growth gazelles by learning from Silicon Valley’s emphasis on venture backing.

from Breakingviews:

Boris Johnson intervention reduces Brexit chances


By Hugo Dixon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own

Boris Johnson's intervention in the European debate reduces the chance of a British exit from the European Union - or Brexit. The Mayor of London, a popular Conservative politician, says he will campaign to keep Britain in the EU provided it can negotiate a pared-down relationship based on the single market.

How much longer can China carry on like this?

–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Breakneck economic growth alongside staggering (and rising) inequality, much of it attributable to blatant corruption, seems like an explosive mixture, but until very recently, I would have said that there was at least a 50-50 chance that China could stay on track for another generation (albeit with some slowing in its growth rate). In recent months, however, I have noticed one or two straws in the wind to suggest that the odds may have tilted against the maintenance of the status quo.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Britain’s two cheers for Carney


When Mark Carney, the respected head of Canada’s central bank, was appointed on Monday to the even more august position of governor of the Bank of England, Britain’s reaction was a characteristic blend of self-deprecation and smugness.

The self-deprecation was publicly expressed by an Opposition MP, Barry Sheerman: “Isn’t it a little surprising that the leading banking nation on earth could not find a British candidate for the job?” This feeling of mild embarrassment seemed to be quietly shared by many Britons in addition to the distinguished domestic candidates who were passed over.

from John Lloyd:

A church divided against itself cannot stand

The Church of England voted not to ordain female bishops last week, a move widely seen as defying the modern world. Much justification was given for this view.

Both the retiring and the incoming archbishops of Canterbury deplored the vote. The former, the scholarly (and “greatly saddened”) Rowan Williams, said, “It seems as if we are willfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of … wider society.” The incoming Justin Welby took a more upbeat view, one appropriate for a former senior oil executive. “There is a lot to be done,” he said, “but I am absolutely confident that at some point I will consecrate a woman bishop.” Still, Welby conceded that the vote was “a pretty grim day for the whole church.”

Flexible working legislation should be for all, not just parents of young children

–Scott Dodds is the General Manager of Marketing & Operations for Microsoft UK. Microsoft was a founding member of the Anywhere Working Consortium. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Nick Clegg’s support for flexible working for parents is welcome but if the UK is to capitalise on the opportunities offered by the knowledge economy we need to move from making flexibility an option for the minority to a stance that makes it available to the large majority of us.

Retail needs to be online and off at the same time

–David Green is business development director at GB Group. The opinions expressed are his own.–

High street retail is in trouble; suffering due to factors such as the explosion of ecommerce. Recent studies show that more than one in ten shops lie dormant in the UK and online shopping has undoubtedly had a large part to play in this. But those that turn it into a competition between online and physical retail are missing the point. The companies which will be the most successful are those that can combine a strong online presence with in-store experience.