UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Tories and Trotskyites

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thatcher.JPGChalk and organic cheese would be an understatement.

There is a surprising public perception that there wouldn’t be much difference between a Conservative or Labour government, but there couldn’t be fewer similarities between the supporters of both movements and the two party conferences.

It would be hard to imagine union activists sipping on cocktails from the Knightsbridge luxury store Harvey Nichols stand at the Labour party conference in Brighton, but in Manchester thirsty Conservatives can enjoy an HN gin ricky.

They can also buy soft, pastel cashmere jumpers from Marks & Spencer or get a suit fitted in the market place. Cufflinks and chalices await those who visit the elite Carlton Club stall, along with limited edition portraits of icon Margaret Thatcher.

At Labour, union stands tend to dominate — reflecting their influence over the movement and the party’s reliance on their funding. The closest you can get to a Harvey Nichols cocktail by the main hall is a pint of tepid bitter from the hatch.

Does class matter in politics?

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borisThree big speeches have been delivered at the Conservative Party conference so far — by party leader David Cameron, the mayor of London and national bumbler, Boris Johnson, and the party’s spokesman on the economy, George Osborne.

What do all three men have in common apart from their membership of the Conservative Party? They were all educated at elite public schools (Johnson and Cameron at Eton and Osborne at St Paul’s) and all went to Oxford, where they were members of the same dining and social set, the secretive and selective Bullingdon Club.

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.

People, Britain and change – Brown’s speech keywords

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown has promised to clean up politics, get tough on crime in his keynote speech to the annual Labour Party conference in Brighton. He also pledged to address the bonus culture that many blame for the financial crisis.

The ‘Word Cloud’ below (click the image for a larger view), produced by Wordle, shows the words he used most frequently.

from Matt Falloon:

Labour lays down policy gauntlet


The Conservatives might be wishing they could have held their party conference before Labour.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's address to his party conference in Brighton on Tuesday has thrown down a flood of new ideas, policies and initiatives from faster cancer diagnosis to choosing how Britain votes in what read more like an mini-election manifesto than a speech.
Brown played to his strengths (policy) and avoided trying to overcome his well-known weaknesses (not much of a political entertainer) in public. Trying to be someone else could have been a disaster for a man way behind in the polls to the Conservatives.
Whether it will be enough to make any difference to the polls remains to be seen -- Labour needs a miracle there after all.
But, for now, going for the policy jugular seems to have done the trick -- giving his browbeaten party something to get excited about and hitting the Conservatives where it hurts.
David Cameron's Conservatives have been accused of not giving enough detail on how they would govern the country if the polls are correct and they are to win power next year.
They will have to start showing their hand soon if they are going to convince voters that they have the ideas to run the country and aren't just a vote for change for the sake of it.

Mandelson shows Brown the way

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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.

UK unions fear future with the “enemy”

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cameronAfter more than a decade of railing against a Labour government that they feel has betrayed their shared socialist roots, British trade unions are now starting to fear what a future with a Conservative government will be like.

“They’re going to come after us like rabid dogs,” said Brian Caton, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association said — dubbing the Conservatives “the enemy”.

Cameron calls time on cheap beer

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House of parliament Where can you get the cheapest pint in London? In a bar in parliament, according to David Cameron.

Cameron said a pint of Fosters in bars sells for only 2.10 pounds in Westminster, little over half of what you would pay outside the confines of parliament.

Should Esther Rantzen stand for parliament?

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Television host, journalist and reality TV star Esther Rantzen is to stand as an independent candidate in the Luton South constituency at the next election.

Rantzen’s interest in running for office was sparked after the seat’s Labour MP Margaret Moran was caught up in the parliamentary expenses scandal.

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