UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from MacroScope:

‘Ken Clarke for Chancellor’ is no joke

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.

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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.”

But economists would dearly like to see the 69-year-old’s appetite for punishment return soon. No-one came close in the Reuters poll to touching Clarke for popularity. Some 16 out of 29 economists picked him as their first choice for Chancellor.

This was more than twice the number of economists who want to install second-placed Vince Cable, the experienced Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman whose quick wit has made him a public favourite.

Political theatre unfolds according to script

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BRITAIN-ELECTION/There was a big fuss but no suspense this morning outside Number 10 Downing Street. In what has become a typical pattern in the world of 24-hour news, media organisations had been briefed in advance on the content and the choreography of Gordon Brown’s election announcement. This was the ultimate scripted, pre-packaged news event.

A huge pack of photographers, cameramen and journalists crowded behind crash barriers across the street from the famous black door from the early hours of the morning. The place was abuzz with technicians doing sound checks and taping cables to the ground with duct tape. The TV channels had lined up their star presenters in smart suits and ties, while behind the cameras reporters huddled in fleeces and scarves to fend off the morning cold in the notoriously draughty street.

Brown takes a different tack on Iraq

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BrownInquiryTony Blair said he had no regrets about removing Saddam Hussein when he ended his session before the Chilcot inquiry in January. Gordon Brown, not surprisingly, took a different approach.

Perhaps mindful of the anger that Blair’s words had reignited, Brown topped and tailed his appearance by acknowledging the  cost in human lives among British soldiers and Iraqi civilians of the conflict.

Election TV debates or social media to have biggest impact?

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There are at least two new factors in the coming election — the first-ever televised prime ministerial debates and the first full-on deployment of social media during a British election (Facebook was a year old, YouTube had just started and Twitter didn’t even exist back in 2005).

In a City University panel discussion on the ‘new media election’ Picture 9on Tuesday, host Evan Davies of BBC’s Today programme framed the debate in terms of which would be most influential:  The old, controlled media in the form of the three 90 minute TV debates to be broadcast by Sky, ITN and the BBC? Or the new, uncontrolled variety in the form of anyone with access to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube et al?

Tories could be making sterling a rod for their own back

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BRITAIN-CONSERVATIVES/Talking down the pound could have some pretty bad consequences.

Ever since the debacle of sterling being forced out of the European exchange rate in September 1992, British officials and politicians have maintained a stiff upper lip when talking about the pound.

The Conservative government spent billions of pounds and jacked up interest rates to defend the currency back then, but to no avail. The party’s reputation for economic competence was lost, paving the way for Labour’s big win in 1997.

Newsmaker with David Cameron, George Osborne and Ken Clarke

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BRITAIN-CONSERVATIVES/Leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Shadow Secretary of State for Business Ken Clarke will join us on Tuesday March 2 to give speeches and take part in a Q&A session on the economy.

With a recent newspaper poll showing Labour could hold on to power after an election due in the next few months, Cameron has admitted that the Tories now have a “fight on their hands” to prevent a fourth successive election win for Labour.

Where did the Tory lead go?

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An opinion poll published today shows the Labour Party gaining ground on David Cameron’s Conservatives. The Ipsos Mori poll found support for the Conservatives on 37 percent, with Labour on 32 percent and the Liberal Democrats on 19 percent.

Carried into an election this would give Labour the most seats in the House of Commons, although no party would have an outright majority. The Conservative’s lead has been cut from a high of 28 points back in September 2008.

from Mark Jones:

Is social media killing the election poster?

Billboard political advertising is a mainstay of election campaigns the world over. A generation ago, the 'Labour isn't working' poster was credited by Conservative party Treasurer Lord Thorneycroft with winning the 1979 election for Margaret Thatcher. But might the advent of social media mean that its days are now numbered?

Alastair Campbell, Labour's director of election communications at the last election, thinks political advertising is losing its effectiveness:

from MacroScope:

Britain heading for rude awakening?

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There is a divisive election ahead for Britain, the threat of a ratings downgrade on its sovereign debt and a deficit that has ballooned into the largest by percentage of any major economy.  UK stocks, bonds and sterling, however, are trundling along as if all were well. What gives?

For a fuller discussion on the issue click here, but the gist is that all three asset classes  are being support by factors that may be masking the danger of a broad reversal. UK equities have been driven higher by the improving global economy, bonds held up by the Bank of England's huge buying programme and sterling by valuation and the distress of others.

No coalitions for Nick Clegg?

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clegg2This is the received wisdom: a hung parliament is  good news for the Liberal Democrats, because it leaves them, as the third-largest party, holding the balance of power. LibDem leader Nick Clegg will be courted by both sides and will decide whether Labour or Conservatives form the next government with him as part of a coalition administration.

But Clegg doesn’t see it that way. Until recently he wouldn’t even discuss what might happen in the event of an inconclusive vote that left either the Conservatives or Labour as the largest party but with too few seats to form a government alone.

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