UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from The Great Debate UK:

Tariq Ali on how unions fare under Labour rule

Amid a stand-off between British Airways and the Unite union, the Labour Party's main financial supporter, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a planned strike by BA cabin crew workers "unjustified and deplorable" last week and said both sides should return to talks.

Rail signal workers in the RMT union are also threatening to strike, but haven't announced a date.

The Conservatives have tried to make political capital out of industrial unrest ahead of a general election expected to be called for May 6, accusing the Labour Party of being in the pocket of the unions.

But how much political leverage do trade unions in Britain really have?

Unions are still burdened by the steps former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took to crush the labour movement in the 1980s, says political commentator Tariq Ali, who has written more than 30 books, including "Rough Music: Blair, Bombs, Baghdad, London, Terror" in 2006 and most recently a novel titled “Night of the Golden Butterfly".

Prospective MPs go dating to woo voters

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speeddatingAs a group of smartly dressed men and women take their seats, in pairs, at small round tables in the dining room of a converted textile factory in Nottingham city centre, some look nervous, some confident, and others just eager to get started.

But before they can, the rules of “speed dating” must be explained: every 5 minutes one person from each pair will rotate to the next table, until everyone has had a chance to speak to everyone else. A whistle is blown. “Let the first date begin,” cries the host and a hum of conversation quickly fills the basement room.

Not the social media election

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Social Media World ForumThe general election will not be decided by social media. And that’s official. Sort of.

At the Social Media World Forum at Olympia yesterday, Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour’s ‘Twitter tsar’) and Craig Elder (the Conservatives’ Head of Online Communities) debated the impact of social media on British politics.

Lib Dems bag a Tory – Edward McMillan-Scott

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David Cameron’s troublesome Euro MP Edward McMillan-Scott is a Conservative no more and has joined the Liberal Democrats. There is no love lost between the independent-minded Macmillan-Scott and the Tories after they expelled him for defying the party over their (anti-)European policy.

He came to the Liberal Democrat’s Spring Conference in Birmingham on Saturday (March 13) and was more than happy to be pictured alongside his new leader, Nick Clegg.

Will this be the internet election?

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With one eye on what happened in the U.S. Presidential election  in 2008, and another on the increasing use of the Web in almost every area of British life since the last general election in 2005, the presumption is that the Internet will play a much bigger role this time. But how much bigger?

Some observers are already playing down the likelihood of a seismic shift along the lines of that achieved by Barack Obama. eDemocracy points out the limited the size of the electorate open to any influence, let along that of social media. Meanwhile, Micah L Sifry of techpresident points out how Britain lacks some of the key ingredients that made it possible to build up the use of new techniques in the U.S. — greater freedom in fund-raising, a long campaign, and competition for leadership within political parties.

Brown takes a different tack on Iraq

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BrownInquiryTony Blair said he had no regrets about removing Saddam Hussein when he ended his session before the Chilcot inquiry in January. Gordon Brown, not surprisingly, took a different approach.

Perhaps mindful of the anger that Blair’s words had reignited, Brown topped and tailed his appearance by acknowledging the  cost in human lives among British soldiers and Iraqi civilians of the conflict.

Tories could be making sterling a rod for their own back

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BRITAIN-CONSERVATIVES/Talking down the pound could have some pretty bad consequences.

Ever since the debacle of sterling being forced out of the European exchange rate in September 1992, British officials and politicians have maintained a stiff upper lip when talking about the pound.

The Conservative government spent billions of pounds and jacked up interest rates to defend the currency back then, but to no avail. The party’s reputation for economic competence was lost, paving the way for Labour’s big win in 1997.

Where did the Tory lead go?

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An opinion poll published today shows the Labour Party gaining ground on David Cameron’s Conservatives. The Ipsos Mori poll found support for the Conservatives on 37 percent, with Labour on 32 percent and the Liberal Democrats on 19 percent.

Carried into an election this would give Labour the most seats in the House of Commons, although no party would have an outright majority. The Conservative’s lead has been cut from a high of 28 points back in September 2008.

What is Alistair Darling up to?

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darling Normally regarded as a safe pair of hands, Chancellor Alistair Darling raised hell on Tuesday night by confirming on live television what everyone in Westminster has believed for some time.

That was that there were people who worked for the prime minister who briefed against him after he told a magazine interviewer in 2008 that the country was facing the worst economic conditions in 60 years.

from Mark Jones:

Is social media killing the election poster?

Billboard political advertising is a mainstay of election campaigns the world over. A generation ago, the 'Labour isn't working' poster was credited by Conservative party Treasurer Lord Thorneycroft with winning the 1979 election for Margaret Thatcher. But might the advent of social media mean that its days are now numbered?

Alastair Campbell, Labour's director of election communications at the last election, thinks political advertising is losing its effectiveness:

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