UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Labour aren’t singing anymore

  Unsurprisingly, it’s a totally different mood at this year’s Labour Party conference in Manchester.Last year in Bournemouth, they talked about crushing the opposition Conservatives for a generation as the party celebrated a 10 point lead in the polls under their new leader Gordon Brown.

Many were urging Brown to make the most of it and call an early election before the economy turned down. He really must be wishing he had.

A year on, Labour is facing the prospect of a total wipeout at the next election and Brown is the most unpopular prime minister in 70 years.

“Low key” – is how the wife of one Cabinet minister described the atmosphere so far. That’s an understatement. The normally raucous conference hotel bars had scant few faces in them even at 9pm as the lobbyists and politicos who usually pack them out decided to give the first day a miss.

Will paedophile scheme work?


sarah-payne.jpgA new pilot scheme which allows worried parents ask police if someone with significant access to their children is a convicted sex offender has been launched by the government.

The Home Office says it will make it possible for single mothers, for example,  to find out the background of a new boyfriend, or for worried parents to check out babysitters.

How safe is your street?


crime-map.JPGEver wanted to know how many crimes were committed in your local area?

Well, by the end of the year you’ll be able to get some idea with every police force required to produce online interactive “crime maps”.

West Midlands and West Yorkshire are two of the forces who have put information about the number of offences in different neighbourhoods on their Web sites and on Wednesday the country’s biggest force, London’s Metropolitan Police, activated its crime mapping site.

Is the DNA database too big?


a genetic blueprint in the DNA labWhose DNA is it anyway?

A “citizens’ inquiry” instigated by the Human Genetics Commission, a government advisory body, wants the records of people who have not been convicted, or whose convictions are long spent, to be deleted from the forensic National DNA Database and says the whole archive should be overseen by an independent body.

The database was established in 1995 in Britain – the country where scientists first pioneered the technique of DNA fingerprinting.

Does Glasgow spell the end of Gordon Brown?


gordon.jpgGordon Brown has woken to some unhappy headlines during his year as prime minister but the verdicts on newspaper websites following Labour’s shock defeat in the Glasgow East by-election were probably the worst he has faced.

“Disaster” was the description of the Daily Mail and The Independent after one of Labour’s safest seats fell to the Scottish National Party. The Daily Telegraph called it “Humiliation for Brown” while “Catastrophe for Labour” was The Guardian’s verdict.

Can the government be trusted with your personal data?


darling1.jpg“Woefully inadequate”, “a muddle-through ethos”, “a lack of awareness” – just some of the phrases used in scathing reports to describe data protection practices at the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The inquiries followed Britain’s biggest data loss scandal, when two discs containing child benefit records, including names, addresses and bank details, of some 25 million people, went missing after being put in the post by a junior employee.

Who’s worth more: a squaddie or a traffic warden?


dannatt.jpgGeneral Sir Richard Dannatt says men and women in the armed services deserve above- inflation pay rises.

He argues that at the moment an individual soldier gets paid less than a traffic warden, and a failure to address this state of affairs would affect motivation.

Witnessing a stabbing


knife-ad.jpg The government has launched a series of hard-hitting adverts, featuring gruesome images of mutilated hands and knives sticking out of victims’ chests.

But even these fail to truly capture the real horror of what knives can do and the trauma it can cause. I know from first hand experience.

The pensions runaway train gathers speed


Few people are more on the pensions money than Scottish Life’s Steve Bee. And he has some strong views in his latest “BeeHive” post following publication of our exclusive story on the soaring costs of setting up “personal accounts” — the government’s brainchild aimed at solving a looming pensions crisis.

Reality seems to be kicking in early on in the dream, says Bee, who finds the whole thing “really depressing”. A chink of light amid the gloom came in this week’s Budget, he says: the extension of the ability of pension fund managers to allow trivial commutation of small pension pots should make things easier and cheaper for occupational pension schemes. But, sadly, such rights are not to be extended to personal pension schemes, a move that only serves to “drive a horse and coaches through the whole idea of our having one simple set of pension rules for all types of pension scheme”.