Election day is fast approaching and with the poll gap narrowing between the Conservatives and Labour, there is a very real probability that the UK will end up with a hung parliament. For the first time since 1974, the UK may be left without clear political leadership.
– What will this really mean for British business?
– How will the markets and sterling react?
– Will a hung parliament scare off international investors?
– Could the economy survive a second general election within a year?
A drugs campaigner could arguably claim to be the most unusual prospective parliamentary candidate in the general election next month — he is running after winning a competition.
An independent candidate in the southern Bristol West constituency, Danny Kushlick, 47, is championing the People’s Manifesto, which is a very different policy document from those espoused by Britain’s mainstream political parties, who released their manifestos earlier this week.
LONDON (Reuters) – The centuries-old rivalry between England and Scotland has been fought out on the fields of battle and sport, but in the production of whisky the Scots have always claimed bragging rights — until, that is, the English Whisky Company (EWC) showed up.
Four years ago, farmer James Nelstrop realized a life-long ambition when he set up a distillery in Norfolk in eastern England and his family are starting to reap the rewards of four years of hard work, a 2.5 million pounds investment and a lot of patience.
My Dad is always telling me about the good old days.Born in Liverpool — a stone’s throw from the football ground Anfield — he grew up in a house that had an outside toilet and was freezing cold. His mother regularly bought food on tick and his idea of a good day out was a trip to New Brighton beach with a banana sandwich to eat for lunch. A Catholic, he suffered sectarian abuse on his way to school, where he was regularly beaten by the teachers. Sounds good doesn’t it?Listening to our politicians – be they from the left or right – things haven’t got much better. By the sound of it, you’d have thought we were living in some post apocalyptic Terminator-like nightmare, where courts do little else but dish out Asbos — anti-social behaviour orders — to our feckless youth.The suicide of Fiona Pilkington, 38, who killed herself and her daughter after years of abuse on their estate has brought Britain’s social problems sharply into focus.”We will not stand by and see the lives of the lawful majority disrupted by the behaviour of the lawless minority,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to tell the Labour party conference on Tuesday.“Because the decent, hard working majority are getting ever more angry – rightly so – with the minority who who will talk about their rights but never accept their responsibilities.”At the other of the spectrum is the financial sector — swollen beyond its socially useful size, according to Lord Adair Turner, Chairman of the Financial Services Authority — fiddling while Rome burns.Is Britain’s society broken and if so what steps need to taken to fix it?
The debate over whether graffiti is art or social blight is to be put to the test by an online vote in Bristol.Reputed home of world-renowned graffiti artist Banksy, Bristol’s residents are to be allowed to vote to either keep murals on buildings, walls and fences or have them cleaned up.”We have said informally that if it is street art that people like we will keep it but we want to formalise it now into a policy,” councillor Gary Hopkins, cabinet member for Environment and Community Safety, was quoted as telling the Guardian, explaining the rationale behind the populist, X-Factor policy.”People want us to keep up the war against the taggers so we have had to work out a way to differentiate between the taggers and the artists”.Two years ago transport workers in London painted over a Banksy mural, erasing a piece of art estimated to be worth 250,000 pounds.Bristol is not the first city to try to protect its graffiti art. Murals on the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, the world’s longest open-air art gallery, are currently undergoing emergency restoration to save them from decay, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the wall being breached.Predictably, fine-art high priest Brian Sewell has spoken out against the Bristol plan. “The two words ‘graffiti’ and ‘art’ should never be put together.”Is Sewell right? Or is graffiti art?
The death of Sir Bobby Robson, England’s most successful manager after Sir Alf Ramsey, had been expected given his long battle with cancer, but his passing still jolts.The son of a miner, Robson’s career was characterised by dignity, loyalty and hard graft and no little success.As a player he won 20 England caps, but it was as an innovative manager that he will be best remembered, notably his success in guiding England to a World Cup semi-final in 1990, when his side came agonisingly close to reaching the final.Before his stint with the national team, Robson managed Ipswich for 13 years, guiding the Suffolk club to FA and UEFA Cup success and twice led the Portman Road side to the runners-up spot in the old First Division.At Ipswich, Robson brought in two Dutch players — Arnold Muhren and Franz Thijssen — who helped forge Ipswich’s reputation as a passing side playing attractive and enterprising football.After stepping down as England manager in 1990, Robson then went to Holland, where he managed PSV Eindhoven, before going on to coach Sporting Lisbon and Porto in Portugal and then Barcelona in Spain.While he was at Barca he helped to preside over the development of the Brazilian striker Ronaldo, before he returned to England to manage Newcastle in his native north-east.Robson was famed for his malapropisms. Once when former England captain Bryan Robson emerged from a lift, his manager greeted him by saying “Hello, Bobby,” to be met with the response: “No boss, me Bryan, you Bobby.”The football knight will be much missed. What are your memories of Sir Bobby and what is his importance to English football?
Former civil servant Sir John Chilcot has been tasked with the latest inquiry into the Iraq war – the fifth – and has promised to investigate “as thoroughly, as fairly, as independently as we can”.But given the rather lukewarm response from the opposition parties, Chilcot faces an uphill task to deliver on that promise and avoid accusations of a “whitewash”.Already questions have been asked about the independence of Chilcot’s five-member panel.While Chilcot himself was a member of the Butler inquiry that cleared former Prime Minister Tony Blair of dishonesty in using intellligence in the run-up to the war, another panel member — the historian Martin Gilbert — wrote in 2004 that Tony Blair and George Bush could one day be compared to Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, while a third member — fellow historian Sir Lawrence Freedman — helped Blair develop his doctrine of liberal interventionism.And Chilcot’s suggestion that the inquiry would occasionally hold private hearings to ensure openness from witnesses has been described by shadow foreign secretary William Hague as a “worrying new caveat”.The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has also criticised Chilcot’s decision not to employ a barrister to cross-examine witnesses.”This is important to ensure that as gifted a communicator as Blair is not allowed to slip off the hook.”The inquiry is expected to last until late next year and may not deliver its report until 2011. That means its conclusions will not be published before a general election due by next June, though Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government could still be embarrassed with Chilcot’s insisting he is prepared to apportion blame.”If we find that people fell short in their duty, made mistakes (or) acted wrongly, we shall most certainly say so and say so clearly,” said Chilcot.Do you think there is a need for another inquiry into the Iraq war? And will Chilcot’s probe succeed in holding past and present leaders to account?Preview this Post
Britain’s drug strategy is under the spotlight following the UK Drug Policy Commission’s (UKDPC) recommendation that there is too much energy spent on arresting drug dealers and not enough on reducing harm to communities.Latest figures show that nearly 90,000 people were arrested in England and Wales for drug offences, with over one billion pounds spent on law enforcement, with £17.6 billion the estimated cost of the UK drug markets.The report questions whether it is worth arresting a drug dealer if a more violent individual replaces him.“Drug law enforcement is clearly not limited to the traditional role of arresting as many dealers as possible in anticipation of reducing supply,” said UKDPC chief executive Roger Howard.”Drug markets will inevitably remain, and some enforcement agencies are beginning to prioritise their resources and efforts to curb the most harmful aspect of these.”But to do this means having a much bigger picture of the harms being created and much better evaluation of the real impact and value for money of enforcement.”What do you think of the UKDPC’s recommendations? Is the UK’s drug enforcement policy clever and nimble enough? Or is there a danger of the police going “softly, softly” on drug dealers by pursuing more innovative approaches?
Television host, journalist and reality TV star Esther Rantzen is to stand as an independent candidate in the Luton South constituency at the next election.Rantzen’s interest in running for office was sparked after the seat’s Labour MP Margaret Moran was caught up in the parliamentary expenses scandal.According to the Daily Telegraph, Moran claimed 22,500 pounds for dry rot repairs for her second home in Southampton, nearly 80 miles from her constituency.One small snag for Rantzen is that Moran has already said she plans to stand down.“If you’re going to stand as an anti-sleaze candidate surely it would make more sense to stand against an actual wrongdoer,” said the Conservative candidate for Luton South, Nigel Huddleston.Rantzen, 69, insists she is standing because of the local support she has received in her attempt to take advantage of a “new wind blowing through the world of politics and maybe bringing some fresh air with it”.Writing in the Guardian newspaper, former independent MP Martin Bell warned Rantzen to expect a rough ride in the coming months.”She can expect to have her record gone through with the finest-toothed of combs,” said Bell.”I hope that she joins the handful of independents – most of them local heroes rather than celebrities – who have an unusual chance of being elected to the Commons. Our dishevelled politics needs them.”What do you think of Rantzen’s decision to stand? Will it help clean up our “dishevelled politics”? Can independent candidates make an important contribution to the running of Parliament? Or is she jumping on a publicity bandwagon?