UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Budget for votes riskily delays UK debt pain

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BRITAIN-BUDGET/– The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Alistair Darling promised no election “giveaways” and in one sense he delivered. The UK finance minister’s budget is about not giving away the election. It might have been worse — if Darling had acceded to his boss Gordon Brown’s even more populist instincts. But there are vote-seeking swipes at high earners and banks, as well as a crowd-pleasing but misguided tax cut to first-time house-buyers. The UK’s budget-balancing pain is being postponed and concealed. And that’s risky.

The headline measure is a tax cut. First time buyers of properties costing up to 250,000 pounds won’t have to pay anything to the government. Many voters will like that. They will like it, too, that people buying million pound properties foot the bill. A further bout of bank-bashing was part of the electioneering approach. Given the scandal of City rewards, few will blame Darling.

The economic impact, however, will be limited. The wobbly housing market may be helped slightly. But the UK economy needs to be buoyed by production and exports, not house price inflation.

Webcast: Gordon Brown’s speech at Thomson Reuters

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown set out his economic plans during a Newsmaker event at Thomson Reuters on Wednesday. Brown said he believed Britain would maintain its coveted AAA credit rating and announced a pay freeze for senior civil servants and military officers to help reduce a record deficit.

Below is a recorded webcast of Brown’s speech and the Q&A session that followed.

Will this be the internet election?

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With one eye on what happened in the U.S. Presidential election  in 2008, and another on the increasing use of the Web in almost every area of British life since the last general election in 2005, the presumption is that the Internet will play a much bigger role this time. But how much bigger?

Some observers are already playing down the likelihood of a seismic shift along the lines of that achieved by Barack Obama. eDemocracy points out the limited the size of the electorate open to any influence, let along that of social media. Meanwhile, Micah L Sifry of techpresident points out how Britain lacks some of the key ingredients that made it possible to build up the use of new techniques in the U.S. — greater freedom in fund-raising, a long campaign, and competition for leadership within political parties.

Hug a politician: the new election strategy

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brown_cameronYou know an election campaign is in full swing the world over when pictures start appearing of politicians kissing babies. But with a general election now just two months away, UK politicians seem to be have found new targets for their displays of affection: each other.

It started with Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. After stories that the Prime Minister and his Chancellor had fallen out with one another over an interview in which Darling accused Brown aides of having “unleashed the forces of hell” at him, the two popped up at the weekly Prime Minister’s questions almost arm in arm.

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.

What is Alistair Darling up to?

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darling Normally regarded as a safe pair of hands, Chancellor Alistair Darling raised hell on Tuesday night by confirming on live television what everyone in Westminster has believed for some time.

That was that there were people who worked for the prime minister who briefed against him after he told a magazine interviewer in 2008 that the country was facing the worst economic conditions in 60 years.

TV interview shows Brown is brushing up

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BrownIt should have been toe-curlingly embarrassing but Gordon Brown seemed to come out of it pretty well, raising the stakes for the planned debates between party leaders ahead of the election.

The prime minister’s appearance on Piers Morgan’s celebrity interview programme on Sunday night must have been designed to  show a more human side to Brown — who often comes across as awkward and intellectual.

Will the Sun win the election for the Conservatives?

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murdoch_newThe Sun trumpeted “It’s the Sun Wot Won It” after the Conservatives won the 1992 general election following the newspaper’s polling day headline “If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights”.

Five years later, Britain’s top-selling daily newspaper switched sides and backed Tony Blair and Labour at the next general election, remaining loyal to the centre-left party at the 2001 and 2005 elections.

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