UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from The Great Debate:

Britain’s Liberals flex their muscles, a little

Every marriage goes through its bumpy patches. Just ask British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and his Liberal Democratic coalition partner, Nick Clegg. They have just gone through the most serious spat since they cobbled together their civil union two years ago, when British voters removed Gordon Brown’s Labour government but didn’t give the Tories a clear mandate. The coalition is a marriage of convenience, a dynastic coupling where neither side is under any illusion that love or affection is involved.

The pretext for the current very public disagreement was a Labour motion in the House of Commons demanding an investigation into whether the minister responsible for deciding whether Rupert Murdoch could buy the 58 percent of broadcaster Sky he does not already own broke the government’s own strict code of conduct. Jeremy Hunt, the man at the center of the fight, has been shown to have made up his mind in favor before being given the job of impartially adjudicating and to have been ultra-cozy with the Murdochs, sending Rupert’s son James a high-five text suggesting that the deal was a fait-accompli. The Murdochs admit bombarding Hunt with no fewer than 788 exculpatory emails. Despite this, Cameron saw no problem with Hunt’s lack of objectivity, and Hunt has defied endless Labour calls to resign.

Clegg, who before the coalition was not deemed important enough to warrant even a Christmas card from Murdoch, spotted an opportunity. With the British public furious at how Murdoch has made a mockery of democracy by bullying and buying his way to business success, he declined to support the Labour motion. The Lib lawmakers were told not to back Cameron and Hunt. The Tories won the Commons vote anyway, as they have a few more lawmakers than Labour.

So, what was the point of Clegg’s rare display of independence? He is highly aware the Libs have suffered from putting the Tories in power. If Cameron succeeds in turning the British economy round within the next three years, Brits may well reward his party with a working majority. If the economy, which coalition policies have driven into a double-dip recession, fails to recover, the Libs will be blamed for aiding and abetting a painful experiment in austerity. At the general election in May 2010, the Libs won 23 percent of the vote. Since then their support, according to every opinion poll, has been cut in half. If an election were called tomorrow, they would suffer a profound collapse.

The reform that breaks the camel’s back?

Trade union leaders have been warning for some time now that it would be pensions reform — not pay freezes or job cuts — that could prove the trigger for widespread public sector strikes this year.

Now activists, eager to punish the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, have all the ammunition they need in the Hutton pension review.

from Matt Falloon:

It’s snow joke

Photo

Snow or no snow, these GDP figures are a nightmare for the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government and throw up the risk of a self-fulfilling spiral of gloom.

When the shock 0.5 percent drop in economic output at the end of 2010 hits television screens on Tuesday night as families sit down to dinner, already-cautious consumers will feel more than a winter chill.

Oldham could be shape of things to come

Photo

RTXWJCC_Comp

As voters drifted towards polling stations on a damp winter’s night in Oldham East and Saddleworth, it was hard to find anyone bursting with good things to say about Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Even some Lib Dems, who came so close to beating Labour in this marginal seat in May, seemed to be voting out of a sense of duty rather than conviction, hoping to limit the shame of defeat to a Labour party still struggling to assert itself in opposition.

Lib Dem party structure “tailor-made for trouble”

Liberal Democrats are proud of the democratic character of their party. The members have sovereign rights over party policy, proposing, amending and debating motions at their two conferences a year.

But is that the best way to run things now the party is unexpectedly in government? Historian Dennis Kavanagh thinks not. The structure of the party is tailor-made for trouble, he told a fringe meeting at the LibDem autumn conference in Liverpool on Sunday.

This may hurt a little

Britons are being prepared for the hardest of hard times. Prime Minister David Cameron has warned the public that they will feel the impact of deficit-cutting decisions for years and maybe even decades. Cameron justifies the pain by saying that doing nothing about debt would be disastrous and that Britain will come out of the other side as a stronger country.

His finance minister George Osborne and LibDem sidekick Danny Alexander were setting out plans on Tuesday for how to conduct this year’s spending review, with  unions, the public and the private sector asked to contribute ideas.

Reality intrudes on new British political order

cameron_cleggBritain’s new political order was on display in the House of Commons on Tuesday when Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg squeezed  happily between Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague  on the government front bench.

The house was packed and in an excited, start-of-term mood. Everything was going swimmingly, with former Conservative minister Peter Lilley cracking jokes as he gaves what is typically a light-hearted response to the Queen’s Speech.

from The Great Debate UK:

Cameron tasked with changing Brits’ expectations

Photo

-- Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is the author of several books, including ‘Who Moved my Job?’ and ‘Global Services: Moving to a Level Playing Field’. The opinions expressed are his own --

After thirteen years, it’s all over. The New Labour project is dead. Or is it? Tony Blair brought British politics to the centre-ground and ensured that a single party could support free-market economic policies as well as social justice.

How long can the negotiations go on?

Photo

It should have been all over now. But no, we’re on day five and no one really seems to know which way things are going to go.

All over Westminster, people are looking tired. Journalists, politicians, aides and most of all the 24-hour news anchors.

The big rescue package has bought the politicians some time

Photo

They promised us market meltdown if there was a hung parliament. That was the Conservative pitch before the election.

That isn’t quite what happened. The pound did fall a bit, so did gilts and stocks but most losses were made up by the end of the first day after the result became known, which had been widely expected.

  •