UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Family drama grips Labour Party conference

BRITAIN-LABOUR/Just when the Labour Party thought it had got over the long feud between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, it has been gripped by an even more compelling drama worthy of prime-time TV – the tale of two brothers who reached the top of British politics only to see their ambitions collide.

Delegates at the Labour Party conference in Manchester are just getting over their surprise that Ed Miliband, 40, pipped his brother David, 45, to be Labour leader. David had long been favourite to win and Ed’s shock victory on Saturday brought gasps from delegates.

David Miliband had received the loudest applause when the leadership candidates strode into the hall to hear the results and there were no euphoric celebrations of Ed’s victory. That’s because many in the hall had not backed him.

To have knocked out the former foreign secretary long seen as the heir to Blair and Brown felt like regicide to some.

Oona King to run as Labour candidate for mayoral election

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BRITAINOnce one of “Blair’s Babes“, former Labour MP Oona King has thrown down the gauntlet to former Mayor Ken Livingstone with the announcement of her official bid to become Labour’s candidate to run for London mayor in 2012.

King served as the second black woman MP in Britain after Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, who was elected in 1987.

Jack Straw rejects plans to cut MPs

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Justice Secretary Jack Straw spared me a few minutes on the campaign trail to explain why he doesn’t agree with Conservative and Liberal Democrat plans to cut the number of members of parliament.

After he quickly downed a bowl of soup in a cafe in London’s legal quarter, he described in this video clip how his plans to half the size of the House of Lords would be a better way to save money.

Labour lavish spending a thing of the past?

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Gordon Brown chose a brand new 545 million pound hospital as the backdrop to unveil Labour’s election manifesto but the document signals that Labour’s past lavish spending on infrastructure is a thing of the past.

In these budget-challenged times, the focus will be on extracting maximum value from every pound spent on health, education and other services, the manifesto makes clear.

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.

Blast from the past as Blair enters campaign

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Tony BlairTony Blair was back on the campaign trail today, doing what he does best, but whether the voters were happy to see him again is open to question.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown was hoping that Blair could still conjure up some of the old magic that helped Labour to victory in the last three elections. But it quickly became apparent that he conjured up a few demons too.

from The Great Debate UK:

Old traditions die hard in UK election campaigning

number10A study of constituency-level campaign techniques undertaken by Brunel University ahead of a general election expected in early May shows that direct mail is by far the most common method of contact used by politicians to reach potential voters.

Of the 27 percent of the electorate contacted by one of the three main political parties in February, about 90 percent received some form of communication through the post via direct mail, the study shows. Some 92 percent said they had been reached through mailings from the Liberal Democrats, 89 percent from the Conservative Party and 81 percent from the Labour Party.

from The Great Debate UK:

Tariq Ali on how unions fare under Labour rule

Amid a stand-off between British Airways and the Unite union, the Labour Party's main financial supporter, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a planned strike by BA cabin crew workers "unjustified and deplorable" last week and said both sides should return to talks.

Rail signal workers in the RMT union are also threatening to strike, but haven't announced a date.

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.

Does Cameron have the X-Factor?

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cameron_brighton  David Cameron was not the only young contender appearing in Brighton this weekend. While the Conservative leader was addressing activists in a seafront hotel, the fresh young faces  from the latest series of the X-Factor were tuning up for a tour date at the Conference Centre a couple of doors along the road.

Cameron is of course engaged in his own struggle for public affection with Gordon Brown and Labour. And what had looked at one stage like a coronation has now turned into a battle royal for the crown.

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