UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from The Great Debate UK:

Will politicians come clean on tax hikes?

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As political parties step up their campaigning ahead of a general election due by June 2010, voters need to know exactly how politicians plan to tackle a projected deficit of 175 billion pounds, says Stephen Herring, senior tax partner at accountancy firm BDO LLP.

In a report titled "Time to Break the Silence" BDO suggests there will not only be cuts in public spending, but substantial business tax increases.

The firm argues that voters have the right to be properly informed about where the changes will be made and says that an additional 25 billion pounds a year in taxes might be required in the medium term to rebuild national finances.

"It may come as little surprise to see that almost every business is expecting to be hit by tax rises next year, but it's disappointing to see that even after the [political] conference season, we're still in the dark over the parties' tax policies," Herring said.

from FaithWorld:

Will Queen Elizabeth give the pope a warm welcome next year?

queenOne can guess what Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will say to Pope Benedict when the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion travels to the Vatican later this year. The more interesting question might be what  Queen Elizabeth is likely to say when she hosts the pope next year. (Photo: Queen Elizabeth, 13 June 2009/Luke MacGregor)

The timing of the trips couldn't be more intriguing, especially the second one. The pope is due to visit Britain in September 2010 and is expected to preside there over the beatification of the late Cardinal John Henry Newman, a famous 19th-century convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism.

from Global Investing:

Global FTSE 100 shrugs off parochial UK GDP data

Britain's FTSE 100 seems to be almost impervious to any bad data that can be thrown at it. GDP data shocked the market showing the UK unexpectedly contracted in the third quarter.

Sterling tumbled more than a cent against the greenbackand gilts jumped while the FTSEurofirst 300 pan-European equity index trimmed gains considerably.

from Global Investing:

Pity Poor Pound

Britain's pound has long been the whipping boy of notoriously fickle currency markets, but there are worrying signs that it's not just hedge funds and speculators who have lost faith in sterling. Reuters FX columnist Neal Kimberley neatly illustrated yesterday just how poor sentiment toward sterling in the dealing rooms has become and the graphic below (on the sharp buildup of speculative 'short' positsions seen in U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data) shows how deeply that negative view has become entrenched.              

 While the pound's inexorable grind down to parity with the euro captures the popular headlines, the Bank of England's index of sterling against a trade-weighted basket of world currencies shows that weakness is pervasive. The index has lost more than a quarter of its value in little over two years -- by far the worst of the G4 (dollar, euro, sterling and yen) currencies over the financial crisis. The dollar's equivalent index has shed only about a third of the pound's losses since mid-2007, while the euro's has jumped about 10% and the yen's approximately 20% over that period.

Clouds of change: Buzzwords from conference season

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dave1Opposition leader David Cameron has delivered his speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester.******Cameron told delegates there would be “painful” cuts in public spending, promised to send more troops to Afghanistan and stressed the importance of confronting “Labour’s debt crisis.” He also pledged to modernise the pension system, “break the cycle of welfare dependency” and cut back on bureaucracy to make life easier for entrepreneurs.******Cameron’s speech brings conference season to an end. Leaders of the three main parties — Cameron, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats — have all laid out their plans for Britain ahead of a general election due by June 2010.******The ‘word clouds’ below have been generated using the complete texts from each of the leaders’ keynote conference speeches, in the order they were given. At first glance there are some striking similarities and fascinating overlaps — but we will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.******How did you think each of the leaders performed? Who did you find the most convincing? Is David Cameron ready to lead the country?******Keywords from Nick Clegg’s speech:******cleggwordcloud2****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******Keywords from Gordon Brown’s speech:******brownwordcloud3****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******Keywords from David Cameron’s speech:******cameronwordcloud

Does class matter in politics?

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borisThree big speeches have been delivered at the Conservative Party conference so far — by party leader David Cameron, the mayor of London and national bumbler, Boris Johnson, and the party’s spokesman on the economy, George Osborne.

What do all three men have in common apart from their membership of the Conservative Party? They were all educated at elite public schools (Johnson and Cameron at Eton and Osborne at St Paul’s) and all went to Oxford, where they were members of the same dining and social set, the secretive and selective Bullingdon Club.

Do you have a favourite Monty Python sketch?

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Monty Python membersNothing was sacred to “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” — and that is probably why the comedy troupe’s television show became so popular.

The irreverent programme starring  John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman first aired 40 years ago in 1969.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan and Britain: On exits and entrances

With one million Britons of Pakistani origin, and as the former colonial power, Britain has a unique relationship with Pakistan. But concerns about Britain's vulnerability to bomb attacks planned by Pakistan-based militants -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that three-quarters of the most serious plots investigated by British authorities had links to al Qaeda in Pakistan -- has made for a rocky relationship.

Irfan Husain, a columnist for Dawn newspaper who divides his time between Britain and Pakistan, writes that these tensions are being worsened by the problems Pakistanis have in obtaining visas to visit Britain.

from Matt Falloon:

Labour lays down policy gauntlet


The Conservatives might be wishing they could have held their party conference before Labour.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's address to his party conference in Brighton on Tuesday has thrown down a flood of new ideas, policies and initiatives from faster cancer diagnosis to choosing how Britain votes in what read more like an mini-election manifesto than a speech.
Brown played to his strengths (policy) and avoided trying to overcome his well-known weaknesses (not much of a political entertainer) in public. Trying to be someone else could have been a disaster for a man way behind in the polls to the Conservatives.
Whether it will be enough to make any difference to the polls remains to be seen -- Labour needs a miracle there after all.
But, for now, going for the policy jugular seems to have done the trick -- giving his browbeaten party something to get excited about and hitting the Conservatives where it hurts.
David Cameron's Conservatives have been accused of not giving enough detail on how they would govern the country if the polls are correct and they are to win power next year.
They will have to start showing their hand soon if they are going to convince voters that they have the ideas to run the country and aren't just a vote for change for the sake of it.

Mandelson shows Brown the way

Peter Mandelson
There haven’t been many highlights from the podium at this year’s Labour party conference so far, but business minister Peter Mandelson pulled the cat out of the bag.
A rip-snorting rouser of a speech on Monday — full of gags and inspirational lines — has energised the party faithful and left commentators drooling.
It was just what Labour needed given all the negativity around the party at the moment.
Way behind in the polls, scrambling for policies that will capture the public mood and seemingly doomed to defeat at the next election to the opposition Conservatives, a week-long conference in sunny Brighton could easily turn into a painfully long few days.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown takes to the stage on Tuesday and must follow Mandelson’s lead if he is to convince the doubters in his own party and beyond that he has what it takes to reverse Labour’s fortunes.
Brown is not known for his imaginative speeches but he needs to find one now.
He did it last year — when plotters in his party wanted him out.
Can he do it again?

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