UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from Reuters Investigates:

Morbid money-spinners

If the life settlements market seems ghoulish, here’s a British scandal which isn’t doing the image of the business any favours. It’s one of the worst the country’s seen.

Around 30,000 mainly elderly investors in the UK put their money into a company called Keydata, hoping to make a little extra cash to fund their own retirement with the promise of a healthy return.

What they were buying sounded kosher, even if it did depend on how fast their wealthy American counterparts were dying. Of course, the investors may not have known that.

As is so often the case with these things, the projections were a little optimistic. And then some other irregularities blew up. Around 100 million pounds went missing, one of the business’s partners dropped dead in Singapore and the investment company was shut down by the regulators, leaving British pensioners like Tony and Pam Tobin out of pocket.  The Serious Fraud Office is investigating.

from MacroScope:

Darkening outlook for UK housing

The outlook for the UK housing market has darkened again. The usually optimistic bunch of property market watchers polled by Reuters, who have tended to predict ever-rising property prices no matter what the season or financial climate, now say the market will move sideways for the next two years.

housing1.jpgThey say that in the next few months, the small double-dip in prices that has begun will continue. Modest gains predicted less than three months ago for this year and next essentially have been wiped away.

from FaithWorld:

God did not create the universe, gravity did, says Stephen Hawking

hawkingGod did not create the universe and the "Big Bang" was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book.

In "The Grand Design," co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts on Thursday.

from Photographers' Blog:

A break in choreography on the campaign trail

On tightly-choreographed campaign trails there aren’t many photo moments that haven’t been carefully planned beforehand by spin doctors, so when Gordon Brown made an impromptu visit to a hair salon in Oldham, there was a ripple of excitement.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown accepts an invitation from Sue Fink to visit her hair salon as he speaks at the Honeywell Community Centre in Oldham, northwest England April 28, 2010.  REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Such unscripted moments create great opportunities for photographers because they offer a glimpse of reality and inject a human element into often monotonous days of speeches, handshakes and platitudes.

BoE’s King “doesn’t do sex appeal”

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Bank of England Governor Mervyn King was on good form when he addressed the Royal Society – Britain’s oldest scientific discussion club – on the vexing issue of communicating complex forecasts to the great unwashed.

Aside from his usual moan about the media’s desire to reduce the BoE’s beautiful but baffling ‘fan charts’ of inflation forecasts to one or two numbers, he made a rare and welcome admission that in past years the central bank had not done as well as it could have to flag up the risk that a financial crisis was about to happen.

Are you losing faith in climate science?

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climatechangeWhile attending a meeting of prominent climate sceptics during the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December (an anti-COP15, if you will), I listened to each of the speakers put forward their theory on why conventional evidence on the primary causes of climate change should be dismissed as, for lack of a better phrase, complete hokum.

Among their denunciations of widely-accepted truths regarding global warming, greenhouse gases, melting glaciers and rising sea levels was the assertion that a change in attitude was afoot; the public may have been duped into believing the mainstream scientific assessment of climate change, but not for long.

Cash for Trash? Tories offer a recycling sweetner

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BRITAIN/On Tuesday, the Tories, still ahead in the opinion polls and widely expected to gain power in an election, which must be held by June 2010, went on a green charm offensive.

It’s unlikely to steal the election, but it nevertheless got heads turning and newspapers gnashing.

from MacroScope:

The word on Gordon Brown from Cayman

Gordon Brown is truly having a rough time. Rebuffed by the United States, International Monetary Fund and others for floating the idea of a tax on financial transactions at this weekend's G20 meeting, he has now got short shrift from the Cayman Islands.

McKeeva Bush, the veteran Caymanian politican who is now premier of the British Overseas Territory, popped in to the Reuters London headquarters for a chat this week. His main concern was to explain plans for making the islands an easier place for financial services personnel to live in. He would like some of those 8,000 hedge nearly 10,000 funds that are registered there to be more than just brass plaques. But, when asked, he also had time to dismiss the idea of a transaction tax out of hand.

from MacroScope:

“Normal” bank lending is no longer realistic

MacroScope is pleased to post the following from guest blogger James Carrick.  Carrick is economist at UK fund firm Legal & General Investment Management. He says here old patterns of lending are unlikely to return and that this means slow growth in developed countries.

"Despite £175 billion of quantitative easing, bank lending in the UK remains weak, threatening to restrain the economic recovery and equity market rally. 

What next for the government?

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Reuters UK Chief Correspondent Keith Weir assesses the European election results and the challenges facing Prime Minister Gordon Brown after support for the Labour Party plunged to its lowest level in a century in European elections.

The collapse in the Labour vote in the European Parliament election, which followed a dismal showing in local government elections last week, helped the far-right British National Party win its first two seats in the European Parliament.

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