UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Another bumper Budget?

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All we’ve heard for the past few weeks is how little room there is for Labour to pump more money into the economy to fight the recession.

The increasingly popular — and confident — opposition Conservatives have gained ground by blaming Prime Minister Gordon Brown for turning the public purse into a public hearse.

But there are a few reasons to suspect that when finance minister Alistair Darling steps up to the dispatch box tomorrow, he will deliver another blockbuster life-support package.

Yes, there are inklings of a recovery out there — some experts say we have reached the bottom — but Labour has to make sure this recession is long gone before it can hope to win an election.

Playing the blame game

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President Barack Obama had barely settled into in the White House before he was happy to admit he had “screwed up” over one of his choices for a cabinet job after Tom Daschle withdraw his nomination as health secretary over an income tax controversy.

Even Britain’s leading bankers were moved to apologise to parliament last month over the sector’s indiscretions in the boom years.

Should banks sponsor sports stars?

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A bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas, parliamentarian John Mann has called on the likes of tennis player Andy Murray, equestrian star Zara Phillips and motor racing great Sir Jackie Stewart to scrap their sponsorship contracts with the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Bleeding red all over its accounts and shedding thousands of jobs, the struggling Scottish bank has been heavily criticised for doling out bonus payments to staff despite receiving billions of pounds of state aid.

Bankers offer act of contrition

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In the Middle Ages the four ousted British bankers who brought the Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS to the brink of collapse would have probably had to endure the public humiliation of sitting in the stocks. 

On Tuesday the likes of former RBS chairman Tom McKillop and  former RBS chief executive Fred Goodwin had to undergo a more civilised form of public humiliation – a grilling by Parliament’s Treasury committee.

Did the press make the crisis worse?

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- As the British economy continues to nosedive, an intriguing sideshow has been going on about who should we blame for the financial meltdown.

Since building society Northern Rock went belly up, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s mantra has been to link Britain’s economic problems to credit flows seizing up due to the subprime crisis in the United States.

Not surprisingly the Conservative party blames Brown. Champagne-swilling, overpaid, bonus-fuelled bankers have come in for plenty of criticism from the general public.

from Global Investing:

A dish best served cold

Alain Grisay, the softly spoken CEO of F&C Investments, was in a wry humour at F&C’s annual press seminar for European journalists on Thursday.

Fresh from his bout with the UK’s Treasury Select Committee on the causes of the banking crisis, and enjoying a respectable set of fourth quarter figures, Grisay is in the rare position of having come through the storm with his house intact. “We have just gone through an unrequested market stress test that confirms our model works,” he said. “We were able to report resilient results for the year and took the market by surprise."

Big Beasts in different cages

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They are known as the “big beasts”, those polticians that hold, or have held, heavyweight government posts and stalk the landscape as if they own it.

The return of Ken Clarke to the Conservative front bench as business spokesman offered Westminster watchers the delicious prospect of watching an admired political performer take on
another just as adept at the stalk and kill in the form of Peter, now Lord, Mandelson.

The arrest of Damian Green, MP

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The furore over the arrest of Conservative shadow immigration secretary   Damian Green for leaking government documents has reached such a pitch that there is talk of MPs disrupting Wednesday’s state opening of parliament.

Editorials over the weekend were full of reminders that Winston Churchill had leaked evidence that Britain was not prepared for the Nazi threat and that Gordon Brown himself has been happy in the past to disclose confidential information. It is part of an opposition MP’s job to hold the government to account, they argued, and no part of the police’s job to act in such a heavy handed way.

Labour “lemmings” on tour in Manchester

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Britain’s foreign minister David Miliband says he does not want a leadership fight.

But his speech to the Labour party conference in Manchester on Monday was hardly rammed full of ringing endorsements for his Prime Minister either and it won’t end the whispering.

Media’s views on the abortion vote

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embryo1.jpgAs MPs prepare to vote on cutting the time limit for abortions, the Daily Mail says the current system “shames our nation”.

Foetuses are being aborted at a late stage in their development when they would have had a good chance of survival outside the womb, the Mail says in an editorial.

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