UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from Matt Falloon:

Brown soldiers on

If a car slams into a bus stop just yards away as you launch a last-ditch election offensive, you might be forgiven for thinking that the gods are
not on your side.

But even after the nightmare week British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has had, such portents of doom have little visible effect on the self-proclaimed underdog in this, one of Britain's most closely fought parliamentary elections for 25 years.

Brown and his cabinet colleagues, unveiling campaign posters in a windswept car park on Friday when the sound of screeching brakes made everyone jump, ploughed on with their attack on the centre-right Conservatives, warning that a vote for the opposition would put British economy and families at risk.

"You have got to have this inner reservoir of resilience to fight back when anything happens to you," the Labour leader told students later in an athletics hall at Loughborough university.
"That's what I've got to do in the next few days anyway."

Was it the worm wot won it?

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My colleague Ross Chainey has blogged about how Nick Clegg emerged as the winner on most measures from last night’s TV debate. But there’s another battle going on in this election — that between traditional broadcast and new-fangled social media.

“In real terms last night was the triumph of broadcast media over digital media,” the head of digital at one of the parties told me this morning.

Opinion poll raises spectre of hung British parliament

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OUKTP-UK-BRITAIN-BROWN-TAXESThe latest opinion poll in Britain showing the opposition Conservatives six points ahead of the ruling Labour party has raised the possibility of a hung parliament with no one party having an overall majority and a return to the kind of political uncertainty not seen since the 1970s.

Kenneth Clarke, the Conservatives’ business spokesman, said earlier this month that a hung parliament at this point in the economic cycle would be a disaster, an assertion his boss David Cameron was quick to try to play down after the latest survey.

Tories and Trotskyites

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thatcher.JPGChalk and organic cheese would be an understatement.

There is a surprising public perception that there wouldn’t be much difference between a Conservative or Labour government, but there couldn’t be fewer similarities between the supporters of both movements and the two party conferences.

It would be hard to imagine union activists sipping on cocktails from the Knightsbridge luxury store Harvey Nichols stand at the Labour party conference in Brighton, but in Manchester thirsty Conservatives can enjoy an HN gin ricky.

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.

Cameron calls time on cheap beer

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House of parliament Where can you get the cheapest pint in London? In a bar in parliament, according to David Cameron.

Cameron said a pint of Fosters in bars sells for only 2.10 pounds in Westminster, little over half of what you would pay outside the confines of parliament.

MPs Kirkbride and Moran fall on swords

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The expenses scandal has claimed two more victims – one from each side of the House.

Labour MP for Luton South Margaret Moran has announced that she will stand down at the next election, while Conservative MP Julie Kirkbride will no longer represent her Bromsgrove constituency after the likely 2010 poll.

Celebrities fill void of confidence in British politics

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These days in Britain, it’s no honour to be a Member of Parliament.

Begrimed by the scandal over their petty expense claims, MPs have fallen so low in the public’s esteem as to displace even bankers and journalists from their usual ranking as the dregs of society.

No wonder. The litany of petty claims revealed by a national paper ranges from the comical — charging a parliamentary expense account for viewing pornographic movies — to the frankly injurious, in the case of MPs who hoarded receipts for garden ornaments to beautify their second homes.

Labour: Your time is up. And not just in Crewe

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crewe1.jpgIf the message on the streets up here in northern England is anything to go by, Labour will be sent packing at the next election.

Yes, it was just a by-election. Yes, Labour is suffering from severe mid-term blues. But the swing was a massive 17.6 percent and it wasn’t the Liberal Democrats who gained from Labour’s troubles, as is traditional in by-elections.

Brown and out?

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crewe.jpgAs much as stunned Labour MPs wander around like Corporal Jones telling each other not to panic after the dreadful result for them in Crewe, many of the newspapers believe Gordon Brown’s days are now numbered.

The Guardian, under the headline “Brown faces meltdown,” says he is facing the gravest crisis of his premiership in the run-up to the Autumn party conference. Like many other newspapers it says the decision to dress Labour activists in top hats and deride the Conservative candidate as a “toff” was a fundamental mistake, albeit one endorsed by Brown.

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