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United Kingdom

Yearbook 1998

UK stands for United Kingdom as abbreviated by The big victory in the May 1, 1997 parliamentary elections had given Labor a very strong majority (419 of the 659 seats of the House of Commons), and the new government was able to work relatively undisturbed during the year. Prime Minister Tony Blair is still enjoying great popularity. In January, Labor challenged its voters for the first time when a controversial welfare reform was launched. Among other things, the contributions to single parents were lowered, and the contributions to the disabled should be tested for needs. The UK government wants to get as many of the country's contributors as possible to start working again and break their dependency. But the proposals were not accepted by the Labor Party's left wing, and the designated groups also reacted very negatively.

1998 United KingdomLater, Finance Minister Gordon Brown introduced a more popular New Deal reform for young unemployed people. Brown promised to start a crusade against unemployment and that anyone between the ages of 18 and 24 who has been unemployed for six months should get a job or education. To further dampen criticism and to make work more attractive than grants, Finance Minister Brown introduced in his new budget, which was presented in March, a guaranteed minimum wage and tax exemption for the lowest paid.

1998 United Kingdom

But welfare reform had nevertheless damaged confidence in the Labor government. Social Minister Harriet Harman had to carry the dog's head and was forced to resign when Blair reformed his government in June. Several other ministers were replaced by new ones, among others. it disputed Peter Mandelson, one of Blair's closest men, who became a new Minister of Commerce.

In March, 200,000 people marched through London in one of the biggest demonstrations of many years. It was a loose coalition of different groups, all of which demanded a greater understanding of the rural population. The requirements ranged from increased rights to hike on private land to increased financial support for the farmers affected by the BSE crisis (mad cow disease crisis). However, the frustration of meat producers eased somewhat when the EU finally decided to lift the ban on the export of British beef 32 months after it was introduced on March 27, 1996. However, it will be until spring 1999 before British meat exports can be resumed again. During the long blockade, 4 million cattle have been slaughtered, which is estimated to have cost the UK taxpayers about 4.6 billion pounds despite compensation from the EU.

One of Labour's most important election promises was to modernize Britain, and already in the first year in power, referendums were held that led to increased independence for Scotland and Wales. A new referendum during the year decided that London should also have its own political government and a directly elected mayor. Now the very old-fashioned upper house, The House of Lords, is in turn to be adapted to the new Labor guidelines. The government wants to abolish the nobility's inheritance right to debate and vote in the upper house, but the heirs have announced that they do not intend to let their old privileges disappear without a fight and the conservatives in the lower house have also opposed.

Conservative leader William Hague was subjected to public humiliation when he discovered that the Conservative leader in the upper house, Lord Cranborne, had negotiated behind him on his back to save some of the inheritance for the time being. Hague dismissed Cranborne, while another six Conservatives in the upper house resigned in protest, and the Tory leader's authority was questioned. The historic democratization of the British upper house will be one of the major political issues in 1999.

Tony Blair stated that the UK, which has chosen to stand outside the EMU, must approach the EU in order not to risk being excluded when the EMU enters into force on 1 January 1999. The UK government intends to strengthen its position in Europe by increasing bilateral contacts with certain selected countries: Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Nordic countries.

It looked as if 1998 would be another very successful year for Prime Minister Blair, but just before the Christmas holidays he suffered a severe setback. His friend and adviser, the influential Peter Mandelson, was unexpectedly forced to resign after it was revealed that he had borrowed just over SEK 5 million from Geoffrey Robinson, Deputy Minister of Finance with special responsibility for tax issues. Robinson also decided to step down when it came to Mandelson keeping the loan secret in order to borrow more money, to an exclusive home, from other lenders.

See also Northern Ireland.

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