UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Punters cash in on Darling’s budget tie choice


Smokers and top earners were clear losers in Britain’s budget this year, as the government hiked taxes on cigarettes and the highest incomes.


But a lucky few must have been cheering in front of their televisions during the 51-minute speech.


Budget-watchers who bet hard cash that the chancellor of the exchequer, Alistair Darling, would wear a grey or blue tie to his address got a welcome bit of stimulus from the budget.


Betting firm Ladbrokes was giving odds of 3/1 and 16/a for a blue and grey, respectively. Perhaps aware of the odds, Darling put on a blue-gray striped one, and Ladbrokes paid out for both colours.

Can you train a teacher in six months?


As the recession closes one door for bankers, another quickly opens.

The government’s latest educational wheeze is to allow teachers to qualify in just six months, half the current one-year time period.

Schools Minister Jim Knight wants to attract “more outstanding people” to the profession and hopes the scheme could help those such as bankers, who were excellent mathematicians and had been made unemployed, switch careers.

Can parents stop kids boozing?


The government has recommended that parents should not allow children to drink alcohol until they reach the age of 15, in the latest attempt to stop the growing tide of juvenile drinking.

It says its research has found clear parental guidelines make a difference.

“Evidence … shows that things that families do … to point out the negative and health effects of alcohol lead to children drinking much later nearer to adulthood and drinking moderately in adult life,” says Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson.

How far will central banks go in 2009?


The year 2008 has been filled with unprecedented events and all-time lows, a financial system overhaul and global turmoil. Could the New Year herald positive re-evaluation and a positive turnaround? And in what has been a year of sleepless nights for many, will a nation steeped in debt start to curb excess?

Rate cuts figured high on the news agenda as banks undertook radical measures to stabilise the economy. Within the space of one week, Britain saw the lowest base rate since the mid-1950s, the ECB took its rate to a two-and-a-half year low, the U.S. Federal Reserve aggressively slashed rates and a 175 point reduction was made by Sweden’s central bank.

The key question remains – will governments run out of weapons to boost the economy in 2009?

Should UK troops leave Afghanistan?


A poll for the BBC has indicated that the vast majority of the public want British troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan within the next year.

Since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, 124 British soldiers have been killed, with two Royal Marines becoming the latest casualties when their convoy was hit by an explosion on Wednesday.

You know things are bad when..

    You know exactly what the population of Iceland is and can also pronounce the name of its prime minister. Even the word ‘crisis’ seems to have lost its currency. Countries pop up for sale on eBay for 99p and get few offers. Posters on BBC messageboards stop discussing the undulating pitch of Robert Peston’s voice and listen to what he’s actually saying. The speech bubble on Page 3 of the Sun is given over to discussing the credit crisis. Financial market updates displace stories about Jade Goody on the tabloid front pages. Bad news stories from government departments are rushed out day after day and not even the Opposition seems to notice. Estate agents finally admit house prices have fallen but tell you now is a really great time to buy because the market is stabilising. People marketing get-rich-quick property seminars don’t get taken seriously any more. The Chancellor, writing in the Financial Times, says that “now, more than ever, we need new ideas”. Your primary school-aged children know that credit crunch is not a type of biscuit and that IMF isn’t just a fictional organisation in Mission Impossible. You go for a while without noticing one estate agent’s mini and then you see a whole bunch of them on the back of a car transporter. A pensioner on the evening tube train from Canary Wharf gives up her seat to a banker because she reckons he might need it. The Ivy rings to ask if you’d like a table tonight or any night. There are no spare trolleys when you turn up at Aldi to do your weekly shop.

Do you have any better suggestions? All contributions welcome – please send in your selection.

Should parents be allowed to smack?


mumtoddler0401kierandoherty.jpgShould parents be allowed to smack their children, or should smacking be treated the same as an assault?

A group of MPs is again pushing for a change in the law for an outright ban on smacking.

Ban smoking in cars?


rtr1xxhr.jpgAnti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says serious thought should be given to a ban on smoking in cars.

In a report which says smoking costs the NHS 2.7 billion pounds a year, the lobby group argues that millions of children and young people are exposed to second-hand smoke in vehicles every day.

Labour “lemmings” on tour in Manchester


Britain’s foreign minister David Miliband says he does not want a leadership fight.

But his speech to the Labour party conference in Manchester on Monday was hardly rammed full of ringing endorsements for his Prime Minister either and it won’t end the whispering.

Deja vu as infighting stalks Labour


    It was the last thing diehard Labour activists wanted voters
to see as the spotlight falls on the party in Manchester this
weekend – two of Labour’s best known veterans bickering on
Sunday morning television over whether Prime Minister Gordon
Brown should stay or go.

In fact, most of the party’s foot soldiers would much rather
those in power got on with trying to find ways to help families
get through what could turn into a nasty recession and pull
together to give Labour a fighting chance at the next election -
which has to be called by May 2010.