UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Is Britain broken and if so how do we fix it?

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handcuffsMy Dad is always telling me about the good old days.

Born in Liverpool — a stone’s throw from the football ground Anfield — he grew up in a house that had an outside toilet and was freezing cold. His mother regularly bought food on tick and his idea of a good day out was a trip to New Brighton beach with a banana sandwich to eat for lunch. A Catholic, he suffered sectarian abuse on his way to school, where he was regularly beaten by the teachers. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Listening to our politicians – be they from the left or right – things haven’t got much better. By the sound of it, you’d have thought we were living in some post apocalyptic Terminator-like nightmare, where courts do little else but dish out Asbos — anti-social behaviour orders — to our feckless youth.

The suicide of Fiona Pilkington, 38, who killed herself and her daughter after years of abuse on their estate has brought Britain’s social problems sharply into focus.

“We will not stand by and see the lives of the lawful majority disrupted by the behaviour of the lawless minority,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to tell the Labour party conference on Tuesday.

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?

Live blogging the Labour Party conference

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The Labour Party conference in Brighton is crucial if the party is to start a revival that could give it a fourth successive term in office. As well as covering Gordon Brown’s big set piece on Tuesday, our team of three reporters will try to gauge party morale and give you a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes beside the seaside.

You can follow our Twitter and video updates via our live blog, which will appear in the box below.

On the road with Gordon Brown

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gbThe Prime Minister is on the move — and I will be following close behind.

I’m Sumeet Desai, Senior Reuters economics correspondent and over the next couple of weeks I will be with Gordon Brown as he travels to New York to the United Nations general assembly and then on to Pittsburgh for the eagerly anticipated G20 summit.

Then it is back to Britain — we will be at the seaside in Brighton for the Labour Party’s annual conference.

from The Great Debate UK:

Brown must create Afghanistan war cabinet

richard-kemp2- Col. Richard Kemp is a former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and the author of Attack State Red, an account of British military operations in Afghanistan published by Penguin. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Disillusionment with the inability of the Kabul administration to govern fairly or to significantly reduce violence played a role in the reportedly low turnout at the polls in Helmand.

Do you love the NHS?

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The National Health Service (NHS) has endured a barrage of criticism from opponents of Barack Obama’s plans to push through a healthcare bill that would rein in costs, place constraints on insurance companies and expand health cover to 46 million uninsured Americans.

Stateside critics of the U.S. President’s plans — including former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin — have branded the NHS “evil and Orwellian” and said it allowed “death panels” to decide levels of care for the elderly. They see it as an overly bureaucratic, “socialised” system of healthcare and the proposals have prompted angry scenes at town halls across America.

Should Britain hold another Iraq war inquiry?

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Former civil servant Sir John Chilcot has been tasked with the latest inquiry into the Iraq war – the fifth – and has promised to investigate “as thoroughly, as fairly, as independently as we can”.

But given the rather lukewarm response from the opposition parties, Chilcot faces an uphill task to deliver on that promise and avoid accusations of a “whitewash”.

Was Norwich North just a local protest vote?

At 27, the Conservative candidate in the Norwich North by-election Chloe Smith becomes the youngest MP in the Commons.

She turned Labour’s 5,000-plus majority in the seat into a 7,348-vote winning margin and keeps the Conservative bandwagon rolling. The election had been forced by the resignation of Labour MP Ian Gibson, who claimed almost 80,000 pounds in second home expenses on a London flat which he later sold at a knock-down price to his daughter.

Is 82 days a fair holiday for MPs?

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown is gearing up for his holidays, which he is expected to take mainly in his Kircaldy constituency and the Lake District.

Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg are travelling overseas for their summer breaks.

from Sean Maguire:

The raw and the crafted

The Media Standards Trust has begun a lecture series on 'Why Journalism Matters'. It is disconcerting that it feels we have to ask the question. The argument put forward by the British group's director Martin Moore is that news organisations are so preoccupied with business survival that discussion of the broader social, political and cultural function of journalism gets forgotten. It is a pertinent review then, given the icy economic blasts hitting most Anglo-Saxon media groups, and notwithstanding the recent examples of self-evidently broader journalistic 'value' produced by London's Daily Telegraph in its politican-shaming investigations into parliamentarians' expenses.

First up in the series was Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, who cantered through the justifications for a vibrant, independent press. Watchdog, informer, explainer, campaigner, community builder and debater - those are the roles that journalism plays. The value that it brings is most evident by comparison with the unhealthiness of states where the press is not free, noted Barber, citing the struggles of the citizenry in China and Russia to hold their leaders to account.

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