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Insights from the UK and beyond

Among the lobbyists at Labour conference

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BRITAIN-LABOUR/As a conference first-timer, I was curious to know what goes on off stage in the conference centre — where the television cameras seldom go.******The lobby area at the Brighton Conference venue is packed with stalls for various campaign groups — everyone from the heavyweights of the Nuclear Industry Association to the Paul Daisley Trust, touchingly run by the widow of a Labour MP who died of colorectal cancer in 2003.******There are plenty of sweets on offer and the canvas bag with slogan is the favourite giveaway.******The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association even allow visitors to try out on Wii Fit’s ski jump. For the record, your correspondent cleared 100 metres before crashing out on his second attempt — way off the conference record marked on the whiteboard.******The most arresting sight is a lollipop lady made of ice — she is slowly melting away in the conference heat. The Unison Union warns that public services would suffer a similar fate if political parties cut public spending.

Live blogging the Labour Party conference

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labour

The Labour Party conference in Brighton is crucial if the party is to start a revival that could give it a fourth successive term in office. As well as covering Gordon Brown’s big set piece on Tuesday, our team of three reporters will try to gauge party morale and give you a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes beside the seaside.

You can follow our Twitter and video updates via our live blog, which will appear in the box below.

from The Great Debate UK:

Who benefits from a file-sharing crackdown?

jollyroger-300x234- Andrew Robinson is the leader of the Pirate Party UK. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Draconian penalties for file sharing were threatened by the government on Tuesday. In addition to the previously announced 50,000 pound maximum penalty for "IP offences" we are now told that whole families are to be disconnected from the net if just one member is accused of sharing files.

from Global Investing:

Is it time for a Scottish wealth fund?

Oxford SWF Project, a university think tank on sovereign wealth funds, is looking at reports that the latest entry in the field could be Scotland. The project has a new post about the Scottish government floating the idea of an oil stabilisation fund to use oil and gas revenues.  It cites Scottish cabinet secretary for finance John Swinney looking abroad gleefully:

“We want to harness the benefit of oil revenues now for future years. An oil fund can provide greater stability, protect our economy and support the transition to a low carbon economy. Norway’s oil fund is worth over £200 billion – despite the first instalment being made as recently as the mid 1990s – and Alaska’s oil fund even gives money back to its citizens every year.”

from MacroScope:

UK heading for second downturn?

MacroScope is pleased to post the following from guest blogger Julian Chillingworth. Chillingworth is chief investment officer of UK investor Rathbones. He questions here whether Britain will face a second downturn shortly after struggling out of recession.

Are we likely to witness a two-tier recession in the UK?  Perhaps not a recession but certainly a secondary downturn. A vast number of people have enjoyed lower mortgage payments and a level of job security, but will this last?

Is powerful Mandy talking up the euro?

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When Prime Minister Gordon Brown reshuffled his cabinet last week, fending off a challenge to his authority, a significant outcome was the creation of one of the most powerful ministerial jobs Britain has seen in years.

 

Peter Mandelson, a former European commissioner who has twice served in British governments in the past and twice been forced to resign, was reconfirmed as secretary of state for business, but also given greatly expanded authorities that make him a powerful if unofficial number two to Brown.

Should Alan Sugar have been hired?

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Among the surprises last week, as one cabinet minster after another stepped down, was Gordon Brown’s appointment of Sir Alan Sugar as the government’s Enterprise Tsar.

Was this a sound decision, several analysts wondered, or was it a possible case of Brown seeming to confuse the worlds of politics and show business, hoping perhaps that what works in the studio would work just as well in the real world?

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.

Speaker Martin: scapegoat or villain?

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Michael Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons, is under pressure like never before and news reports say he might even announce his departure on Tuesday afternoon.

The chief officer and highest authority of the House has become a lightning rod for the strong current of anger swirling around Westminster as the row over MPs’ expenses rumbles on.

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