UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Let’s hear it for the pigs

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It’s been a grim time for pigs.

First they were blamed for the swine flu that caused a worldwide stir after it was discovered in Mexico — and now everyone’s likening them to Members of Parliament with their snouts in the trough.

But look at the facts. The genetic make-up of the virus may have been predominantly porcine but the pigs themselves didn’t have it. Even at the supposed epicentre of the outbreak in Mexico they showed no symptoms — things reached such a state that owners of some pig farms in the US were stopping humans coming near them in case they infected their animals. The pigs were innocent OK?

And yet the name “swine flu” stuck, lots of people stopped eating pork and in Egypt they were even culled.

Now this. The image changes from dirty to greedy as all the cartoonists portray our expenses-hungry MPs as curly-tailed pinstriped pigs, shedding wads of notes from their pockets as they pile into the trough.

Is the government being unfair to Gurkhas?

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Nepalese Gurkhas have a long and justifiably proud history of serving alongside Britain – Gurkha units fought with the East India Company in India as early as 1817. Over the years, the Gurkhas have developed a reputation for tenacity, bravery and dogged loyalty to their adopted army.

But when it comes to giving something back once they have finished their military service, Britain has something of a mixed track-record on the Gurkhas and has even been accused of disloyalty.

In for a penny, in for £175 billion

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It may not be tax and spend exactly, but it’s definitely tax and borrow.

For the best part of 12 years, Labour has pursued essentially conservative (with a small ‘c’) economic policies, steadily underburdening itself of the ‘fiscally unreliable’ tag that some earlier Labour administrations were (wrongly or rightly) saddled with.

And for most of the past 12 years, as the global economy steadily expanded and Britain’s along with it, with aggregate wealth rising smoothly, Labour looked strong at the helm each time the budget came around.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

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    Alistair Darling may think it’s time for a bit of collective
responsibility, but anyone who thinks Gordon Brown is about to
apologise for Britain’s current economic travails should think
again.

    The prime minister, who loved to boast about abolishing boom
and bust when he ran the Treasury for a decade, is now
contending with the economy shrinking at its fastest pace in
nearly three decades and the prospect of millions out of work.

Sorry Darling, Davos is for Mandy

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If there were any questions over who is number two in British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s cabinet, Davos might have helped clear them up.

While Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling is giving the annual gathering of global big wigs a miss, business minister Lord Peter Mandelson has found the time to go.

Has Brown lost the Spring in his step?

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Is the Labour Party going to regret not hosting a Spring Party Conference this year?

Yes, it is going to save them a lot of cash, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown has enough to worry about ahead of the G20 financial crisis summit in Britain in April.

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.

Labour’s jobs summit

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The government is to offer firms a “golden handshake” of up to 2,500 pounds for every person they recruit who has been unemployed for more than six months. Total cost of the initiative is expected to be around 500 million pounds.

Unemployment in Britain rose to 1.86 million people in the three months to October, equal to six percent of the workforce and the highest rate since the three months to June 1999.

The Tory debt to Birmingham

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willetts.jpegIt’s goodbye to buckets and spades, and hello to Brum.

The Conservative Party is meeting in Birmingham for its first conference there for 75 years, away from the seaside B-list of Bournemouth, Blackpool and Brighton.

The return is long overdue, says David Willetts, who was brought up in the Midlands city.

Labour aren’t singing anymore

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  Unsurprisingly, it’s a totally different mood at this year’s Labour Party conference in Manchester.Last year in Bournemouth, they talked about crushing the opposition Conservatives for a generation as the party celebrated a 10 point lead in the polls under their new leader Gordon Brown.

Many were urging Brown to make the most of it and call an early election before the economy turned down. He really must be wishing he had.

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