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Britain’s new finance minister wields his axe with brutal force. Government departments face cuts and so does the ruling party’s popularity. London relives its day of terror. Sibling rivalries are set aside for political gain. The owners of the Boston Red Sox score a soccer home run. Plus: how two very different strolls in the English countryside uncover either al fresco sex or ancient treasure.
Top news: Before he scraped into power earlier this year, Prime Minister David Cameron was often heard trumpeting his party slogan: “We’re all in it together.” But what are we in together? A mess is probably the politest way to put it. And that’s why his government now says it’s time to get medieval on public spending.
The so-called Comprehensive Spending Review — the most savage round of spending cuts since World War II — will see half a million government jobs go. A separate review of defence spending will mean Britain’s aircraft carriers will have no aircraft to carry.
With some government budgets cut by up to 80 percent, and popular payouts such as universal child benefits being canned, some — led by the opposition Labour Party — question the logic behind these “reckless” measures.
But even amid dire warnings of double-dip recessions and middle-class revolts as the country heads into a cold winter of austerity and discontent, some experts question whether most Britons will even notice.
“The world is not going to end in response to these cuts and living standards are not going to plunge,” writes economist Roger Bootle. “They are not like the onset of a war or an outbreak of the plague.”
One cut that will certainly be noticed is a proposed hike in tuition fees that could see some universities charge up to $20,000 a year. It might not seem much compared to institutions overseas, but it’s hard to swallow in a country where until relatively recently, higher education was free to all.
When such gloom abounds, casting one’s mind back five years should be a slightly more uplifting experience — unless it is to recall the bloody events of July 7, 2005, when terrorists blew themselves up on London’s transport network.
An inquest into the deaths of 52 people in the attacks has shed new light on the events, with some survivors claiming of rescue delays alongside the emergence of new images of the day, and bizarre “A-Team”-related text messages.
Back, briefly, to politics for one story that tested family ties to their limits: the contest to elect a successor to Gordon Brown, who stepped down as Labour Party leader after losing a general election earlier this year.
After a close-fought battle it was Ed Miliband, a physically awkward junior politician, who emerged as the surprise victor, defeating his older, more experienced, brother David, who had been clear favorite.
Miliband junior has so far weathered allegations of being an extreme left-winger (or “Red Ed,” as he has been known), and made an impressive debut at Prime Minister’s Questions, a vigorous weekly debate in parliament. But did he really have to use the L-word?
Money:From Red Ed to Red Sox, with news that New England Sports Ventures, the owners of the venerable Boston baseball team, has bought Liverpool, one of Britain’s most prestigious soccer clubs.
Despite the unpopularity of the club’s previous owners — including Texan billionaire Tom Hicks — fans have so far reacted warily to the takeover, largely due to Hicks’ “zombie-like” ability to rise up and regain control.
Monetary waste has been a major business sector talking point this month after the government hired retail magnate Philip Green to investigate further ways it could save cash. Green, rather unsurprisingly, found numerous “shocking” examples.
Among Green’s controversial recommendations were that the government should dawdle in paying its suppliers, asking for at least 30 days of credit — a suggestion likely to stir grumbling among companies struggling for credit themselves.
Elsewhere: At this point it’s always interesting to dip into the News of the World — possibly the most outrageous of Britain’s tabloid newspapers — to see what’s really been happening. Sadly, the “Screws,” as it is affectionately known, is the latest Rupert Murdoch-owned publication to cover its modesty with a pay wall.
So, it is to the redoubtable New York Times we must turn for an interesting look at the open air sex activities of rural English “dogging” enthusiasts. More countryside news this month with the $3.6 million sale of a Roman helmet found buried in a field.
Until the artefact was discovered there, few people had heard of the remote Cumbrian village of Crosby Garrett. I have. My parents live three miles away and I’ve probably crossed that field many times, unaware I could have been the one to discover the fortune beneath. If only we were all in it together.