How others see politics in Britain

IT may surprise many readers to learn that the trials and tribulations of Labour and Gordon Brown are making international headlines.On Friday, the internet edition of the highly respected Paris-based International Herald Tribune - the global edition of the New York Times - was dominated by a story headed “Defeat in Scotland rattles Labour and Brown” which described the party as “exhausted by 11 continuous years in power”.

Graham Dines

IT may surprise many readers to learn that the trials and tribulations of Labour and Gordon Brown are making international headlines.

On Friday, the internet edition of the highly respected Paris-based International Herald Tribune - the global edition of the New York Times - was dominated by a story headed “Defeat in Scotland rattles Labour and Brown” which described the party as “exhausted by 11 continuous years in power”.

It said Brown had been “buffeted by missteps on income tax increases for blue-collar workers, the loss of date from government computers with personal details of millions of voters, and the impact of the global economic crisis.”


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From such stories stem the world's view of Britain and its government.

Having spent a week recently with European journalists on a visit to the Middle East, I was quizzed on what had gone wrong, and this was before the humiliation of losing Glasgow East to the SNP.

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These journalists - from Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Poland, Latvia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary - were eager to find out how a man who had spent 11 years in Government fretting over becoming Prime Minister had made such a inept fist at the job.

Many are eager to talk to David Cameron and asked for his contact numbers. The reason is clear - Cameron will change the UK's relationship with the rest of Europe. Continental Europe fears that if Brown and the government fall within the few months, the Tories will renege on the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, which will plunge the EU into a new crisis.

They also believe that following the break-up of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, the UK will splinter, just as Belgium seems certain to do.

ANOTHER fine example of municipal madness reaches me, this time from Essex.

Colchester's visual arts facility (VAF), now under construction at a cost approaching £20million, may have to be bulldozed because it is way over budget. If the project - which received the backing of Tony Blair when Prime Minister and ministers in the Departure of Culture, Media and Sport - is abandoned, the borough council will have to repay £14m to the building's main funding bodies including the Arts Council and the East of England Development Agency.

Embarking on prestige arts projects is fine which the economy is soaring. But as recession begins to bite, benefactors and public bodies soon get cold feet.

The Liberal Democrats set the VAF wheels in motion when they controlled the borough council. The Conservatives carried on with the project with alacrity when they took over. Now the Lib Dems, with Labour support, may become the VAF's executioners.

I'm on the side of those who say the VAF would be an asset to Colchester, Essex, and East Anglia as a whole. But why did the council approve the project without placing a cap on construction costs?

The woes of this behind-schedule arts gallery have allowed its naysayers, including the town's Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell and the small contingent of Labour councillors, to gloat.

As my old friend the Chancellor of Essex University Andrew Phillips - Lord Phillips of Sudbury - is fond of saying, “it's a right bugger's muddle.”

IF you have any examples of municipal madness in Suffolk and Essex, email me at graham.dines@eadt.co.uk or phone me on 01473 324730

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