UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from The Great Debate:

Thatcher: Master of the ‘unexpecteds’

Photo

The passing of Margaret Thatcher comes at a time when the great theme that shaped her years as Britain’s prime minister – the frontier between government and the private sector – is again the focus of serious public debate. Her historic achievement was to widen the frontiers of the “market” and, as she said, to have “rolled back the frontiers of the state.”

There is, however, a pendulum in this relationship between government and private sector. The role of government in the economy has expanded greatly since the 2008 financial collapse, along with government debt. So we will likely again see a struggle to rebalance the respective realms of state and market. And it will again be a battle.

The former prime minister’s memorial service Wednesday provides timely reason to ask: What was the Thatcher Revolution about? I tackled that question 15 years ago – for my book The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy – and I decided the best way to answer was by asking Thatcher herself. So I turned up at the Thatcher Foundation, a town house in London’s Belgravia, which was the operating base for then-Baroness Thatcher.

“For me, it was so simple,” Thatcher told me that day. “The state ought not to tell people what to do. My experience reinforced my beliefs. It was becoming obvious to people that the socialist way meant accepting decline.” At that point she shook her head. “Can you imagine – people accepting decline.”

Best of Britain: War and peace

Photo

Two events highlighted the past week’s Best of Britain photos: Remembrance Day and the protests that made their way inside the Conservative Party headquarters.  In a simultaneous mirror of war and peace, there were the somber Remembrance Day vigils honoring those who’d given their lives in war, contrasted with the chaos of student protesters, angry at the Conservative Party’s plans for higher tuition fees and cuts to education.

Also included are photos of a girl celebrating Diwali and a scientist showing a new high tech material that can manipulate visible light.

from MacroScope:

‘Ken Clarke for Chancellor’ is no joke

Photo

Ken Clarke shouldn’t underestimate how strongly the city economists polled by Reuters last week want to see him serve as Britain’s finance minister next term.

BRITAIN/

The Conservative shadow business secretary and one time ex-Chancellor gleaned a few laughs from Thursday’s BBC Question Time audience when asked about the poll, saying: “There’s a limit to how much of a glutton for punishment you’re going to be.”

from The Great Debate UK:

Old traditions die hard in UK election campaigning

Photo

number10A study of constituency-level campaign techniques undertaken by Brunel University ahead of a general election expected in early May shows that direct mail is by far the most common method of contact used by politicians to reach potential voters.

Of the 27 percent of the electorate contacted by one of the three main political parties in February, about 90 percent received some form of communication through the post via direct mail, the study shows. Some 92 percent said they had been reached through mailings from the Liberal Democrats, 89 percent from the Conservative Party and 81 percent from the Labour Party.

from The Great Debate UK:

Tariq Ali on how unions fare under Labour rule

Photo

Amid a stand-off between British Airways and the Unite union, the Labour Party's main financial supporter, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a planned strike by BA cabin crew workers "unjustified and deplorable" last week and said both sides should return to talks.

Rail signal workers in the RMT union are also threatening to strike, but haven't announced a date.

Cameron survives Lewisham lion’s den

Photo

Conservative Party leader David CameronOn the face of it, the booing suffered by David Cameron at the hands of a boisterous group of students and job-seekers at a London college is not a good news story for the Tories.

Facing loud accusations of being a Thatcherite clone and jeers of “No Tory cuts” is presumably not what the Tory spin doctors hoped for when they organised this merry jaunt to Lewisham College.

Mandelson slip-up confirms eurosceptics’ fears

Photo

mandelsonBusiness minister Peter Mandelson built his reputation as a sure-footed communicator for the Labour Party, but the former EU trade commissioner suffered a rare slip-up on Friday when he confirmed many eurosceptics’ fears that the European Commission relished its lack of democratic accountability.

“The best principle of the European Commission ever invented was that it should not be elected — that it was remote, unaccountable, a major bureaucracy that could do good for Europe and can take the risks of saying things and doing things that are not as easy to do in the member states,” said Mandelson.

Relaxed Brown up for election fight

Photo

brownHe’s 10 points behind in the polls but Gordon Brown is clearly not going down without a fight.

With an election likely in less than 90 days, the Prime Minister seems to be relishing the prospect of taking on the Conservatives and he thinks he can win.

Tony Travers on challenges the parties face

Photo

tony_traverspmAlthough the Queen’s speech on Wednesday is a formal occasion to outline the government’s agenda for the new parliamentary session, with less than six months to go before a general election, commentators are viewing it as the unofficial launch of Labour’s campaign.

Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, outlines some of the challenges the parties face before elections, which must be held no later than June 2010.

from The Great Debate UK:

Brooks Newmark drops a debt bombshell

Photo

Brooks NewmarkBritain's national debt is far higher than Prime Minister Gordon Brown is willing to acknowledge, Conservative MP Brooks Newmark argues in a new paper published by the Centre for Policy Studies.

The true level of government debt is not 805 billion pounds as currently reported by the Office for National Statistics, Newmark says, calling for an independent audit of the government's books.

  •