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Insights from the UK and beyond

Constitution in crisis as tyrannical journalists devour cowed politicians

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A sordid tale of excess and brutality, of a world dominated by journalists with their ears to the keyhole, of tyrannical newspapers wielding remarkable power and of a political class not only cowed, but consumed, by that power.

Sound familiar? With two of Britain’s most senior policemen out of a job, the prime minister under pressure for his serenading of News Corp and one of the world’s most powerful press barons, in the form of Rupert Murdoch, summoned to testify to parliament, it would be one way of describing the current state of affairs.

In fact, it is how Irish writer and wit Oscar Wilde saw the state of Britain 120 years ago.

“In old days men had the rack. Now they have the press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralising,” Wilde wrote in 1891, several years before a court case in which intimate details of his own private life became the centre of a media storm.

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:

The Disunited Kingdom

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- Paul Henderson Scott has written numerous books on Scottish history, literature and affairs, including ‘A 20th Century Life’ and its sequel, ‘The New Scotland’. He has been Rector of Dundee University, President of the Saltire Society and of Scottish PEN and a Vice-President of the Scottish National Party. The opinions expressed are his own -

BRITAIN SCOTLANDThe recent election has revealed more clearly than before the profound divide between Scottish and English opinion. The Conservatives have 297 seats in England but only one in Scotland (plus eight in Wales). As Joyce McMillan said in The Scotsman, “Our pattern of voting increasingly marks us out as a nation apart”.

from Matt Falloon:

Brown soldiers on

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If a car slams into a bus stop just yards away as you launch a last-ditch election offensive, you might be forgiven for thinking that the gods are
not on your side.

But even after the nightmare week British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has had, such portents of doom have little visible effect on the self-proclaimed underdog in this, one of Britain's most closely fought parliamentary elections for 25 years.

Opinion poll raises spectre of hung British parliament

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OUKTP-UK-BRITAIN-BROWN-TAXESThe latest opinion poll in Britain showing the opposition Conservatives six points ahead of the ruling Labour party has raised the possibility of a hung parliament with no one party having an overall majority and a return to the kind of political uncertainty not seen since the 1970s.

Kenneth Clarke, the Conservatives’ business spokesman, said earlier this month that a hung parliament at this point in the economic cycle would be a disaster, an assertion his boss David Cameron was quick to try to play down after the latest survey.

Was the Queen’s speech pointless?

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LON700LibDem leader Nick Clegg had called for the speech to be cancelled because he says there is little chance of much legislation getting through before the coming general election. ”The speech will be dressed up as the way to ‘build Britain’s future’ when it will be little more than a rehearsal of the next Labour Party manifesto, an attempt to road-test policy gimmicks to see whether they might save this Government’s skin,” he said.”It is a waste of everyone’s time, and should be cancelled in favour of an emergency programme of political reform,” he added in the Independent. “That is the only job this rump of a Parliament is fit for.”The Conservatives piled in too, with their leader in the upper House, Lord Strathclyde saying that if the measures outlined were so important they would have been in the government’s legislative programme last year rather than being left to the last moment of the fifth term.Downing Street however called the speech a ”very focused programme” of legislation, while Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman said it contained important plans to foster economic growth and make the banks more accountable.What do you think?

Is it time to give Guy Fawkes a break?

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BRITAIN/It’s bonfire night, and once again poor old Guido gets it.

Up and down the country he will be burned in effigy for the dastardly crime of trying to blow up the Houses of Parliament over 400 years ago.

But wait — after all the moats, duck houses and house-flipping of the past 12 months, should it not now be conceded that he might have had a point, even if his methods were a little extreme?

MPs’ expenses: rubbing it in?

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OUKTP-UK-BRITAIN-CLEMENTFury, resentment and a general feeling of being hard done-by is reported to be the prevailing mood amongst MPs as they reconvene after the Summer break to find brown envelopes of an unwelcome sort waiting for them.

These are the already infamous “Legg letters,” the latest symbol along with duck houses, moats and mole-catchers of the expenses scandal which did so much damage to all parties earlier this year.

Clouds of change: Buzzwords from conference season

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dave1Opposition leader David Cameron has delivered his speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester.******Cameron told delegates there would be “painful” cuts in public spending, promised to send more troops to Afghanistan and stressed the importance of confronting “Labour’s debt crisis.” He also pledged to modernise the pension system, “break the cycle of welfare dependency” and cut back on bureaucracy to make life easier for entrepreneurs.******Cameron’s speech brings conference season to an end. Leaders of the three main parties — Cameron, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats — have all laid out their plans for Britain ahead of a general election due by June 2010.******The ‘word clouds’ below have been generated using the complete texts from each of the leaders’ keynote conference speeches, in the order they were given. At first glance there are some striking similarities and fascinating overlaps — but we will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.******How did you think each of the leaders performed? Who did you find the most convincing? Is David Cameron ready to lead the country?******Keywords from Nick Clegg’s speech:******cleggwordcloud2****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******Keywords from Gordon Brown’s speech:******brownwordcloud3****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******Keywords from David Cameron’s speech:******cameronwordcloud

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.

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