U.K. in 2012

Written by  //  December 3, 2012  //  U.K./Britain, World  //  No comments

From Diamond Jubilee to Bob Diamond and Banking scandals
Plus Olympics, EU and other news

The Official website of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee
London 2012 Olympics
(BBC) In pictures: New aerial shots of London and 2012 venues
Bear Baiting, Shin Kicking, and Races for Old Women
The surprising British origins of the modern Olympic Games
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EU Withdrawal – a good history of Britain’s relationship with the EU
UK Economic Outlook: March 2012

The Shard, London
Matthew Lloyd/GETTY IMAGES
Tony Burman: When all things ‘British’ translate into ‘foreign-owned’
(Toronto Star) On a visit to London, as the city welcomes the world to the 2012 Olympics, you’ll hear the damnedest things from those talkative tour guides in their red double-decker buses.
To wit, “Welcome to London, the world’s leading global city. As foreigners, please treat our city as if it’s your own. Because, well . . . it actually is. If you look way up, looming over London Bridge, you’ll see the “Shard,” Europe’s newest and tallest skyscraper, owned by the tiny Gulf state of Qatar. Down the street, you’ll find Boots the chemist (owned by Italians), not far from Harrods in Knightsbridge (compliments of the Qataris). Be sure to visit Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason (owned by Canadians). And definitely look east in the direction of the Olympic village (also Qatar-owned).
You can buy souvenirs of your favourite football clubs, such as Manchester United (owned by Americans), Manchester City (Abu Dhabi) or the championship team Chelsea (owned by Russians). We’re not far from where you’re staying if it’s the Dorchester Hotel (owned by Brunei) or the Savoy (Canada). But be careful when you exit this traditional London double decker bus and drive away in your classic British Mini — which, by the way, are now both owned by Germans.”
Ah yes, “Rule Britannia!” It appears these patriotic words are now disconnected from whatever nationality the title deed happens to be in.
Prime Minister David Cameron made that clear this week as he played host in London to France’s new president, François Hollande. Cameron provocatively pledged to “roll out the red carpet” for French businesses who wanted to flee France. He said he sees his “job” each day is to ask: “What more can I do to make Britain the best place in the world to do business?”

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Kate Is Pregnant
(People) Prepare for a new royal.
The Duchess of Cambridge, 30, is expecting her first child, the Palace has confirmed.
“Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting a baby,” read the statement released Monday. “The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry and members of both families are delighted with the news.”
“The Duchess was admitted this afternoon to King Edward VII Hospital in Central London” … William is with her at the hospital, and the morning sickness is “acute,” the palace says. A companion article points out: Not surprisingly, the pair timed the pregnancy so as not to overshadow the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, nor to disrupt a major foreign tour.
25 October
UK gets out of recession with a bang
(Emerging Markets) The world’s fifth-largest trading nation posted the highest quarterly economic growth in 5 years, on the back of the 2012 Olympics
15 August
Jeremy Hunt told: don’t pretend London 2012 Olympics helped tourism
Culture Secretary under fire for claim that Games were good for business
(The Independent) Travel organisations and shopkeepers around London and many working in tourism outside the capital described the period of the Games as one of their worst and questioned how easy it would be for many small firms to recover.They were angered yesterday when Mr Hunt denied there had been a fall in trade and went on to claim the Games had been good for the industry.
13 August
The day after the Olympics left town
(CBC) Britain may well have memories of these Games that will last generations and London’s beat-up East End, site of the Olympic Park, is set to be transformed by billions of dollars in new infrastructure and investment brought in by the Games.
Still, it will be some time before the real legacy is known.
Britain is mired in economic doldrums. The economy has flat-lined and the ruling coalition government is fraying at the seams. The feel-good factor of a successful Games, despite the psychological boost, is unlikely to do much to turn all that around.
“This might have had a mildly positive impact but not a massive raging boost,” says Tony Travers, a professor of local and regional government at the London School of Economics.
Travers says big events like the Olympics rarely have a lasting effect on a country’s economy and that Britain and especially London, a hub of global finance, are at the mercy of much bigger events like the survival or demise of the euro.
5 August
ROUBINI: ‘The London Olympics Are An Economic Failure As London Is Totally Empty’
Economist Nouriel Roubini is tweeting doom about the London Olympics this morning.
From @Nouriel: UK policymakers scared so much folks before the Olympic that London is a deserted city: non-olympic tourists are away; londoners are gone!
London taxi drivers have reported a 20-to-40 percent drop in income this month, with industry representative Steve McNamara calling the Games “a complete and utter disaster.”
Naturally, Dr. Doom’s comments are linked to 43 Signs That The London Olympics Will Be A Complete Disaster
Half-way through the Games and most people have only praise for the organization and the hospitality of the local citizenry.
31 July
Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, wins silver with British Olympic equestrian team Nice present for Granny.
27 July
Olympinomics
David Cameron says the Olympics will boost Great Britain’s ailing economy—could he be right?
(Slate) One typical concern about an Olympics is that it’s a waste of money. Olympic cost overruns often reach the billions. But the United Kingdom is currently plagued by high unemployment and is able to take advantage of super-cheap borrowing costs. Under the circumstances, a potential “waste” of money is much less important than the waste of human potential involved in not spending money and not employing people on Olympics-related activities. In a struggling, high-unemployment economy, it’s better to waste some of this Olympic spending on cost overruns than to not spend at all. Olympic spending, in essence, is a kind of spending that all politicians favor—even ones who normally push for austerity. (A skeptical Time article argued the games won’t bolster British growth by relying on a Moody’s analysis concluding that most of the job-creating infrastructure spending has already happened. That distinction is important for economic forecasters, but it still tends to indicate that the games have been good for Britain.)

Picture(BBC) London 2012 opening ceremony wows world media
London Olympics 2012: Opening Ceremony music to all ears
(National Post) Sebastian Coe — that’s Seb to his pals, Lord Coe to you — had this to say about the architect of Friday night’s opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics:
“I can’t imagine what it is like being in Danny Boyle’s head for even half an hour.”
Well, the world got a full three hours’ worth Friday, and a little more, when the Academy Award-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire shone his offbeat, occasionally whimsical light on the touchstones of Britain’s cultural heritage, from Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, the Beatles to Arctic Monkeys, sheep to socialized medical care, the Industrial Revolution to the World Wide Web. Also some great photos
25 July
Anatole Kaletsky: Britain is losing the economic Olympics
(Reuters analysis) Britain’s heroic spending cuts and tax increases imposed by the Cameron government may contrast starkly with lassitude and cowardice displayed by politicians in Washington. But this dramatic political contrast has made absolutely no difference on the debt and borrowing outcomes the two countries have actually achieved, because the British austerity has simply prolonged recession, while U.S. fiscal laxity has allowed the economy to grow.
The economy is struggling, but not as hard as the official GDP figures suggest
(The Economist) THOUGH it is hard to find anyone who is bullish about Britain’s growth prospects, economy-watchers have been consistently surprised by the weakness of official figures. The latest set, published on July 25th, showed that GDP in the second quarter fell by 0.7%, a far bigger drop than the 0.2% decline forecast by analysts. The figures suggest the economy has shrunk by a cumulative 1.4% over the past three quarters and is now smaller than when the coalition government took office in May 2010. All this adds to the pressures on George Osborne, the increasingly forlorn chancellor of the exchequer.
The scale of the surprise suggests two alternatives: either business is much weaker than even the gloomiest forecasters had feared, or the preliminary estimates of GDP are so flawed they are not a reliable guide to the state of the economy. Which is it?
Britain sinks far deeper into recession than forecast
(Reuters) – Britain’s economy shrank far more than expected in the second quarter, battered by everything from an extra public holiday to government spending cuts and the neighboring euro zone crisis.
More troops deployed, Games about sport and diplomacy
(Reuters) – Britain deployed 1,200 extra soldiers on Tuesday in a last-minute effort to bolster Olympic security while global diplomatic tensions started to play out among athletes and politicians three days ahead of the opening ceremony.
Yet for all the grumbling by a notoriously critical media and Londoners braced for disruptions to their daily lives, the sense of excitement was palpable with the Games just around the corner and the sun shining brightly after weeks of rain.
Early buzz from Monday evening’s technical rehearsal for the opening ceremony at the main stadium of the sprawling Olympic Park was positive, suggesting film-maker Danny Boyle’s unusual, quirky and ambitious vision might just work.
19 July
‘Mad’ London braces for its Olympic moment
Amid fears over security and strikes, London gets ready to host the world
(CBC) Heathrow wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. [It is] after all, the busiest airport in Europe and is hectic at the best of times.
Long, frustrating queues at customs are par for the course, and recent press articles and blogs on travel sites have been full of horror stories and suggesting three-hour waits at a minimum.
Earlier this week, hundreds of London cabbies blocked a central intersection to protest against their exclusion from Olympics-dedicated traffic lanes, and their action spilled over to most of the city’s biggest arteries.
With just a week to go before the opening ceremonies, London is gearing up for the biggest party in the world. But it’s also bracing for all the chaos that goes with hosting the Summer Olympics, an event guaranteed to bolster national pride but also fray nerves, particularly in a city that already moves at a frenzied pace. Drivers are grumbling about the designated “Olympic lanes” on London streets, choking off roadways and creating grinding gridlock. Public transit users have been warned they should expect heavy congestion on the city’s already crowded Underground. Add to all that concerns over security and the announcement by border guards and some railway workers that they intend to go on strike during the Games and you can see why the Olympic planners are also getting more than a little anxious.
20 July
London 2012: frustration and pride as military steps in to clear up G4S mess
It’s a case of ‘I told you so’ as military and police – facing drastic cuts and low morale – ride to the rescue of Olympic security
There was a buzz of efficiency and a polite welcome around the London Olympics’ impromptu military checkpoints this week as soldiers, sailors and airmen and women frisked and scanned with overqualified competence.
In a week when the private sector’s record in delivering large-scale public-sector work has suffered as a result of G4S‘s spectacular failure to deliver on its Olympic security contract, the armed forces stepped in to fill the breach. Their arrival at the Olympic site was a potent symbol of the public sector riding to the rescue of an unloved private leviathan.
‘Invisible’ minister Lord Green who ran HSBC dodges questions over scandal
(The Independent) Lord Green was branded “the invisible man” yesterday as the bank was also implicated in the interest rate fixing scandal which has rocked the City of London. Labour said Lord Green should make an urgent statement in the House of Lords after evidence emerged in a US Senate inquiry that he was told in 2005 about the money laundering affair.
16 July
IMF slashes UK economic growth forecast
(The Guardian) International Monetary Fund downgrades its forecast for UK growth next year by more than any other developed nation
UK economy has experienced a ‘lost decade’ of innovation
(The Independent) Investment in new products and ideas has fallen by £24bn since the recession hit in 2008 and has not recovered, the report by Nesta (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) found.
The charity said the study showed that businesses had a “crisis of confidence in the 2000s, prioritising cash and concrete over investment in innovation”.
Britain flooded with ‘brand police’ to protect sponsors
Olympic security is in disarray, but organisers are taking no chances with corporate deals…
Olympics organisers have warned businesses that during London 2012 their advertising should not include a list of banned words, including “gold”, “silver” and “bronze”, “summer”, “sponsors” and “London”.
Publicans have been advised that blackboards advertising live TV coverage must not refer to beer brands or brewers without an Olympics deal, while caterers and restaurateurs have been told not to advertise dishes that could be construed as having an association with the event.
At the 40 Olympics venues, 800 retailers have been banned from serving chips to avoid infringing fast-food rights secured by McDonald’s.
6 July
The Last Queen of Scotland?
Jennifer Welsh
(Open Canada) Today, the last day of her week-long visit to Scotland as part of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, Queen Elizabeth II will lunch at Scone Palace – the place where Scotland’s ancient kings were crowned. Despite the monarch’s careful efforts to remain one step removed from political matters, the media cannot resist speculating as to what the contours of her relationship with Scotland might be, should this part of the United Kingdom vote in favour of a referendum on independence.
2 July
Timeline: key events in the Barclays Libor scandal
Events in the six days since Barclays was fined £290m for manipulating key interest rates
Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond resigns
Chancellor George Osborne says Diamond’s exit after interest rate scandal was ‘right decision for Barclays and for country’
(The Guardian) In a stunning turnaround – only on Monday the 60-year old chief executive was vowing to stay – Diamond is to go immediately after a 15-year career with the bank and only 18 months as chief executive
Will we see City bankers behind bars?
(The Independent) Barclays staff behind interest rate-fixing scandal may face fraud charges as Parliament holds inquiry
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said it was investigating whether it was possible to bring criminal charges against executives who manipulated the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) and would decide within weeks whether to proceed.
Shortly after the SFO’s announcement, a political row broke out over David Cameron’s decision to reject calls for a Leveson-style inquiry into the episode in favour of a more rapid parliamentary investigation into the banking system.
What if Britain left the EU?
Eurosceptics want a vote on the ultimate question – and the PM does not seem entirely opposed. Ben Chu examines the consequences of saying bye bye to Brussels
2 July
David Cameron becomes Britain’s new Harold Wilson over EU referendum
Prime minister lays ground for referendum after EU negotiations in which UK would be lucky to secure cosmetic changes
1 July
Libor scandal: How I manipulated the bank borrowing rate
(The Telegraph) An anonymous insider from one of Britain’s biggest lenders – aside from Barclays – explains how he and his colleagues helped manipulate the UK’s bank borrowing rate. Neither the insider nor the bank can be identified for legal reasons.
30 June
Britain’s financial sector in turmoil amid massive scandal
Weeks before the summer sports quadrennial begins on July 27, Olympic regalia is everywhere. The national flags of nearly 200 countries are already flying above Regent Street. Canada’s Maple Leaf is to be found in one of the toniest precincts nearer to Oxford Circus than Piccadilly Circus.
But just as the United Kingdom gets ready to party and forget — for a moment, anyway — the meltdown of the European economies and the dangers that that portends for the world, some of Britain’s most well known financial institution have been caught in what looks like the Crime of the 21st Century.
The $30 billion suspected heist from investors and thousands of businesses and customers, such as mortgage holders and pension funds, was apparently done through price fixing and interest rate swaps between leading banks and the manipulation of complex daily interest rate swaps that affected $350 trillion dollars in banking products.
27 June
For UK politics the eurozone crisis will bring the deluge
Only the gold standard and the winter of discontent have caused similar convulsions in Britain’s 20th century history
11 June
TV review: Murdoch, Cameron & the £8 Billion Deal; Britain in a Day
(The Guardian) So just how did the Tories and the Murdochs get so close – and where will it all end?
10 June
Britain should stay in EU, says report by Eurosceptic thinktank
Exit from the European Union would pose ‘unpredictable political and economic risks’ according to Open Europe report(The Guardian) As a growing number of Conservative MPs join the anti-EU Better Off Out campaign, the Eurosceptic Open Europe thinktank hits back by arguing that membership remains “the most beneficial arrangement” for Britain.
The report, seen by the Guardian before publication, says: “From purely a trade perspective, EU membership remains the best option for the UK. All the alternatives come with major drawbacks and would all … require negotiation with and the agreement of the other member states, which would come with unpredictable political and economic risks.”
4 June
No matter how one feels about the occasion, it is undeniable that nobody does pageantry better than the Brits. The pictures of the Land of Boats and Glory are absolutely breathtaking. The BBC is positively burbling with excitement and is almost rivalled by our own CBC . Poor Wendy Mesley must be gritting her teeth – Peter (Mansbridge) got to go to London and she had to stay home and mind the (National) store.
The American media are equally enthusiastic and we would point you particularly to Slate’s tribute from an American ‘cousin’ A Queen for the Ages

As Her Majesty celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, Britain stands up to admire the one celebrity who always does her duty. “Most of all, the queen, simply by living so long, has come to epitomize an increasingly rare idea of duty that many in Britain, and elsewhere, admire. She doesn’t quit, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t talk to the press or protest when people draw nasty caricatures or say unpleasant things about her family. For six decades, she has shown up at charitable events, raised money for good causes, represented Britain when she was told to, met regularly with the British, Canadian, and Australian prime ministers, among others, attended all of the state ceremonies, always looked the way she was supposed to look, and always thought of something to say.
In marked contrast to most public figures on all counts.

11 May
How Rebekah Brooks worked the Murdochs, even as she worked for them
Brooks was chief architect of the very nexus of press and political power the Leveson inquiry is struggling to uncover
2 March
EU summit: All but two leaders sign fiscal treaty
(BBC) The “fiscal compact” aims to prevent the 17 eurozone states running up huge debts like those which sparked the Greek, Irish and Portuguese bailouts.
To take effect, the pact must be ratified by 12 eurozone states.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who with the Czechs refused to sign, said the summit had accepted his ideas for cutting red tape and boosting growth.

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