UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from MacroScope:

Watch out for the G20 spin

Be careful this week about buying wholeheartedy into any G20-related spin about supposedly savvy, free-spending Britain and America doing more to combat the world economic crisis than supposedly stubborn, overly cautious Germany and France. The actual figures show it is much more complex than that.

A Reuters calculation on discretionary fiscal stumuli and the International Monetary Fund's assessment show that, if anything, Britain is the significant laggard and that German spending almost matches the United States over the next two years. Here are the IMF's numbers (% of GDP):

                                                          2009                     2010

 Germany                                             1.5                       2.0
 France                                                 0.7                      0.7
 UK                                                      1.4                     - 0.1
 US                                                      2.0                       1.8

UK minister in a spin over climate change doubters

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As a top-flight racing driver, Britain’s Science Minister Paul Drayson may seem an unlikely critic of the auto industry.

The self-confessed “car nut” owns a motor racing team and competes in a 200mph Aston Martin in competitions around the world.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

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    Alistair Darling may think it’s time for a bit of collective
responsibility, but anyone who thinks Gordon Brown is about to
apologise for Britain’s current economic travails should think
again.

    The prime minister, who loved to boast about abolishing boom
and bust when he ran the Treasury for a decade, is now
contending with the economy shrinking at its fastest pace in
nearly three decades and the prospect of millions out of work.

from Photographers' Blog:

Snowed under

So what do you do when the TV and radio news are all telling you not to travel, and then you receive a group SMS from your company saying stay at home?

Well it's the worse snow storm to hit London in 18 years and all you want to do is get out there and shoot it.

Has Brown lost the Spring in his step?

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Is the Labour Party going to regret not hosting a Spring Party Conference this year?

Yes, it is going to save them a lot of cash, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown has enough to worry about ahead of the G20 financial crisis summit in Britain in April.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Britain and the Kashmir banana skin

Memories seem to be short in the British government when it comes to Kashmir. Foreign Secretary David Miliband stirred up a diplomatic row over the region during his visit to India earlier this month. As this piece in The Times says, Miliband angered Indian officials by giving what they described as "unsolicited advice" on Kashmir, over which India has three times gone to war with Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947 and over which it is in no mood to be lectured by outsiders, let alone the former colonial power.
It was on a visit to Pakistan and India in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of those two countries' independence that the then British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, also got into trouble over Kashmir. Cook, who also served the Labour government, was forced to row back from suggestions that Britain might help resolve the long-running dispute. His intervention cast a serious shadow over the visit by Queen Elizabeth, who was at one point forced to cancel a long-planned speech.
The visit, during which the queen was accompanied by Cook, went downhill after that, and at one point a senior British diplomat was seen sitting, head in hands in despair, on the pavement outside Chennai airport. There were even suggestions, denied of course, that the British High Commissioner might be recalled. Tony Blair, then prime minister, had to patch up ties by assuring his Indian counterpart, Inder Kumar Gujral, that London would not meddle in Delhi's dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
One wonders whether Miliband was reminded of all this before he went to India, and if he was, why did he walk into the Kashmir minefield once again. Or maybe he wasn't, which poses a different set of questions about competence and institutional memory at the Foreign Office.

Big Beasts in different cages

They are known as the “big beasts”, those polticians that hold, or have held, heavyweight government posts and stalk the landscape as if they own it.

The return of Ken Clarke to the Conservative front bench as business spokesman offered Westminster watchers the delicious prospect of watching an admired political performer take on
another just as adept at the stalk and kill in the form of Peter, now Lord, Mandelson.

from Global Investing:

And the next Iceland is…

If there's one thing you don't want to be, it's the next Iceland.

Since its currency, colossally indebted banking sector and economy collapsed in spectacular fashion in October, the country has become a byword for an economy that has truly hit the rocks.

Within weeks, banking problems and currency falls meant Hungary was being hyped as a "second Iceland", at least until a joint International Monetary Fund and European Union rescue package restored some stability.

from MacroScope:

A path strewn with difficulties

An old Chinese proverb states that it is better to take many small steps in the right direction than make a giant leap and fall back. Judging by the number of bank lending initiatives announced over the past three months, British policymakers are taking this to heart.

On Monday, Britain announced no fewer than eight measures to kickstart lending in its credit-starved economy. Despite pouring 37 billion pounds of public money into major banks last October and pledging hundreds of billions more in guarantees, the government had to admit it needed to take more credit risk off banks' books.

How far will central banks go in 2009?

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The year 2008 has been filled with unprecedented events and all-time lows, a financial system overhaul and global turmoil. Could the New Year herald positive re-evaluation and a positive turnaround? And in what has been a year of sleepless nights for many, will a nation steeped in debt start to curb excess?

Rate cuts figured high on the news agenda as banks undertook radical measures to stabilise the economy. Within the space of one week, Britain saw the lowest base rate since the mid-1950s, the ECB took its rate to a two-and-a-half year low, the U.S. Federal Reserve aggressively slashed rates and a 175 point reduction was made by Sweden’s central bank.

The key question remains – will governments run out of weapons to boost the economy in 2009?

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