UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Was Norwich North just a local protest vote?

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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.

What do you make of the result? Was this a clear message to Labour about its policies and its leader Gordon Brown or a protest against the ruling party in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal?

Where would you cut public spending?

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Vows by Labour and the Conservatives to protect the NHS from spending cuts will require tax hikes or cuts to other areas, a new report shows.

Promises to “ring-fence” health spending in the lead-up to the next election — to be held before June — might lead to cuts of about 8 percent in other departments over the next six years, say researchers at the King’s Fund and the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

What if it’s not the economy, stupid?

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Gordon Brown is counting on a swift economic turnaround. It’s probably his Labour Party’s only hope of avoiding a humiliating electoral defeat to the Conservatives next year.

The latest news on the economy has certainly got people in Downing Street smiling. The housing market is stabilising and some commentators are even talking about Britain becoming the first major country to pull out of the recession.

Labour MPs reprieve humble Brown – for now

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Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meetings are usually drab affairs. The leader turns up, listens to a few grumbles from backbench MPs, a few reporters hang around outside hoping to grab a half-decent quote and in the end a Labour apparatchik puts a rose-tinted spin on proceedings.

Not so on Monday night, one of those rare “crunch time” events for a party leader that creates such a frenzy inside and outside the venue. Parliament’s committee room 14 was so full one MP of robust stature tried to force not one, but two doors in an attempt to get in, and ended up with a sore shoulder. Veteran party member Greville (now Lord) Janner, a member of the Magic Circle, gave up trying to get in and instead entertained reporters with a couple of magic tricks. His skills may have been of more use on the other side of the door.

from Funds Hub:

In the brown stuff

The unfolding crisis in British politics makes for fascinating viewing for the populace and great work for journalists, but it also of course has potentially far-reaching implications in the financial sector.

rtr248cnAs cabinet ministers resign and Labour MPs call for Gordon Brown to step down, several outcomes now distrinctly possible -- Brown stays, a new Labour prime minister emerges or a general election is called and (if polls are correct) the opposition Conservatives win. The future direction of UK government policy is far from clear.

Is there any way out for Gordon Brown?

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The Guardian newspaper, normally a Labour supporter, has decided Gordon Brown must go.

“It’s time to cut him loose,” it declares in an editorial that goes on: “The public is calling furiously for a better system. People want an honest parliament. They want leaders who are prepared to act. They loathe the old system, and many of the people who are part of it.”

UK MPs’ expenses: who’s next?

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The scandal engulfing British members of parliament over their often startling expenses claims has started to bring down some prominent victims: the speaker of the House of Commons, two Labour Party MPs and four from the Conservatives at time of writing.

The Daily Telegraph, which obtained a disk containing unexpurgated details of claims for moat dredging, floating duck houses, plasma screen televisions and reimbursement for mortgages long paid off, is now on Day 19 of its unremittingly lurid revelations.

Celebrities fill void of confidence in British politics

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These days in Britain, it’s no honour to be a Member of Parliament.

Begrimed by the scandal over their petty expense claims, MPs have fallen so low in the public’s esteem as to displace even bankers and journalists from their usual ranking as the dregs of society.

No wonder. The litany of petty claims revealed by a national paper ranges from the comical — charging a parliamentary expense account for viewing pornographic movies — to the frankly injurious, in the case of MPs who hoarded receipts for garden ornaments to beautify their second homes.

Who can restore order to the House of Commons?

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In what turned out to be something of an anti-climactic announcement, House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin has said that he will step down on June 21.

Martin has been heavily criticised for his handling of the scandal over MPs’ expenses that has tarnished the reputation of the “Mother of Parliaments”, triggered outrage across recession-hit Britain and led to opposition calls for an early general election.

Echoes of Italy’s Clean Hands revolution

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The shockwaves reverberating through Westminster as the MPs’ expenses scandal unfolds have been compared with the “Clean Hands” bribery scandal that effectively demolished Italy’s post-war political establishment in the space of a couple of years in the early 1990s.

If things are going to get that bad, the guilty politicians are going to have an uncomfortable time.

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