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News Comment
a personal view of the week's news from Erithacus

1st September 2001 

UK shares fell heavily this week with the FTSE100 index ending at 5345, just 84.5 points off its low for this year but still 12.5 points better than its close on Thursday. The small rally seemed driven more by investors’ confidence in individual companies than by movements in any particular sector, although pharmaceuticals seemed to be the favourite area with Astra Zeneca rising 1.9% to close at 3327. GlaxoSmithKline lost some of its earlier gains to finish just 0.2% up at 1828. Market analysts also pointed to buying resulting from traders covering positions on short trading earlier in the week.
Worry about falling advertising revenues hit the media sector, with Granada losing 3.9% to 143 and Carlton down 1.1% to 314.5. Cable company Telewest also lost 6.7% to close down at 52.25.


Economists have produced some of their most cautious reports this week as surveys indicate levels of consumer confidence in the UK are dropping. Economic growth for the current year is still expected to reach 2% (3.1% in 2000), but the "economic optimism index " from MORI indicating how people expect the economy to perform over the next year, fell to its lowest level since November 1998. Perversely, perhaps, while expecting the economy as a whole to perform relatively badly, surveys of consumer’s confidence in their personal finances showed that few were concerned. Expectations among those questioned were higher than in similar surveys 12 months ago, indicating that it is unlikely consumer spending will drop as sharply as many have predicted. John Butler from HSBC said this confidence would mean "a slowdown rather than a collapse in consumer spending" even if a slowing economy resulted in rising unemployment.
Although a number of high-profile companies including Marconi, British Telecom and Invensys have announced major job losses in recent weeks, unemployment in the UK stands at a 26-year low of 3.2%.


Politicians in Scotland were left red-faced this week when they discovered they had forgotten to renew the legislation allowing them to charge a toll to motorists crossing the Erskine Bridge across the river Clyde. Scottish Transport Minister Sarah Boyack was forced to suspend charges when the error was discovered, and motorists who have made payment since the mandate expired on July 2nd may be able to reclaim their money.

When interviewed, Ms Boyack said, "This error is deeply unfortunate. It should not have happened."

Yes. Brilliant comment.


Few in the UK will have managed to miss the stories about the (alleged) misdemeanours of Neil and Christine Hamilton in recent months. As the Hamiltons begin their libel action against Nadine Milroy-Sloan who had accused them of sexually assaulting her, I hear that Ms Milroy-Sloan’s barrister has said his client may have made "an honest mistake".

I find this to be a startling revelation. Having read in one of the tabloid newspapers some weeks ago the (unbelievable?) explicit details of the alleged assault told in Ms Milroy-Sloan’s "own words", I really don’t see how it could be any sort of mistake – honest or otherwise. Either they did it, or Nadine Milroy-Sloane has an extremely active imagination.

Or.......No, surely not. The tabloid newspapers would only print the truth. Wouldn’t they?


As the final stages of battle for the leadership of the Conservative party heats up, I see that Kenneth Clarke (my apologies for mis-spelling his name last week) has branded his rival Iain Duncan Smith as a "hanger and a flogger", the "epitome of an old-style right-wing Tory". The comments, made in an interview on BBC radio, were reported on the Internet by ePolitix. Just two minutes after this report was published, ePolitix reported Home Secretary David Blunkett’s call for the public to express their views on options for sentencing criminals.

No need to ask the public, David. Just ask Iain.


We’re in serious trouble.

A tidal wave travelling at 500 mph will hit West Africa, Britain, Spain Portugal, France, The Caribbean and Florida. And maybe a few other places I haven’t mentioned.

According to reports this week, a volcano called Cumbre Vieja on the island of La Palma which is part of the Canary islands, will erupt and cause a huge mountain to crash into the sea creating the largest tidal wave in recorded history. The wave is expected to reach many miles inland and tens of thousands of people may lose their lives.

Reports vary, however, as to when this disaster will happen. While some of the "experts" are saying the risk is negligible because the volcano may only erupt at intervals of more than a century and it may take many eruptions before the collapse of the mountain, others are saying that the risk is imminent.

Will it happen before or after we are struck by a huge comet or asteroid; before or after the polar icecaps melt; before or after a rogue dictator acquires weapons of mass destruction and releases them on us; before or after climate change creates constant tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts; before or after an atomic PowerStation goes into meltdown and burns its way through to the Earth’s core; before or after the aliens land; before or after we’re all destroyed by a giant mutant lizard with an attitude problem? 
I wonder.

1st September 2001                        

News Comment is usually updated at the end of each week

Links to previous news comments:

25-August-2001
18-August-2001
27-July 2001
14-July-2001
7-July-2001
30-June-2001
23-June 2001
16-June-2001
10-June-2001
03-June-2001
26-May-2001
19-May-2001
12-May-2001
05-May-2001
21-April-2001
14-April-2001
07-April-2001
31-March-2001
24-March-2001
18-March-2001
11-March-2001
04-March-2001
24-Feb-2001
18-Feb-2001
10-Feb-2001
03-Feb-2001
27-Jan-2001
20-Jan-2001
13-Jan-2001
06-Jan-2001
30-Dec-2000

Feel free to send your comments, opinions, and letters to Erithacus we will be pleased to publish suitable letters at the discretion of the editor.

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