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

New! See also our "Scoop!" page - exclusive news and investigations by the Simply Info News Team 

Stock Markets again had a nervous week, although the FTSE100 index managed to gain 141 points to finish on 5950.6. Steady gains throughout the week were boosted on Friday by a better-than-expected trading update overnight from U.S. computer chip manufacturer Intel. Larger gains on Friday morning, however, evaporated as New York markets opened down, and the worries of investors increased when U.S. trading was disrupted by a systems failure on the NYSE. Although the FTSE100 reached 5981.8 at one stage on Friday, it ended just 2.3 points up on the day and some were surprised to see it finish positive after several dips into negative territory during the afternoon.
One of the worst hit shares for the week was Railtrack, losing its place in the FTSE100 and being downgraded by one broker to a "true value" of just 58p. Railtrack hit its lowest price ever, threatening to drop under £3, but recovered steadily to finish the week at 396p.

The General Election dominated UK news this week, although many had correctly said that a victory for New Labour was a foregone conclusion. While business leaders are apparently pleased with the success on the grounds that Tony Blair’s government is the most likely to forge closer links with Europe and, in particular, likely to push Britain to join the Euro as soon as possible, many investors seem less sure. On UK stock market Bulletin Boards, opinion polls almost without exception showed massive support for the Conservatives, with some indicating a majority of small investors as high as 80% intending to vote Tory. No doubt the Conservative’s view might be that those with a financial interest in businesses are generally more sensible than the rest, while New Labour supporters might consider most of those dabbling in shares to be greedy and acquisitive. Whatever the reasons, their hopes were dashed as New Labour jumped into the record books being the first UK Labour government to succeed in being elected for a second consecutive term.

Despite the usual enthusiasm from the media during the election campaign, the British voters seemed somewhat less enthusiastic. The percentage of those eligible to vote who actually bothered to turn out was the lowest since 1918 and, there being exceptional circumstances in 1918, the lowest for a normal General Election since 1860. It appears that even John Prescott’s controversial punch at the egg-thrower had failed to rekindle any real interest in politics among the British public, although the award for the greatest gaffe during the campaign must go to New Labour politician Stephen Pound. Mr Pound, it appears, told a woman who telephoned him about university grants "I’m totally ******-off with you middle class whinging. Why don’t you take your ******* votes and shove them up your ****." Marvellous. A politician who actually says what he thinks. He must be unique. What a pity he spoilt it later by claiming he thought the telephone call was a deliberate wind-up. Mr Pound was re-elected to his constituency of Ealing North.

Some readers may remember the short paragraph from News Comment on 27th January about Ken Livingstone’s attempts to reduce the number of pigeons in Trafalgar Square, London. I hear that now there may be a new solution to the continuing problem. Cleaners in Trafalgar Square report that pigeons refuse to go near the Square’s latest addition, an inverted resin plinth called "Monument" by Rachel Whiteread that cost £300,000. "Monument" has been variously described as "ridiculous", "completely out of place", "a giant ice cube" and "bizarre". Culture Secretary Chris Smith says it is "a beautiful work reflecting back the movement and bustle of central London" and "it creates a moment of peace". Clearly the pigeons do not agree, but obviously we have the solution to the pigeon problem: replace all the monuments and statues in London with new resin monoliths by Turner Prize winning Ms Whiteread. I hope you’re reading this, Ken.

Finally for this week, returning to a political theme I see a survey by razor manufacturer Gillette has apparently established that the public are less likely to trust a politician with any sort of facial hair than they are to trust a clean-shaven one. While potentially casting fear and self-doubt into the minds of such prominent politicians as Robin Cook, supporters of this new theory point to the success of Ken Livingstone in the election for Mayor of London over his bearded rival Frank Dobson. Indeed, it was widely reported that Labour strategists had urged Mr Dobson to shave off his white beard. Whether or not beards cause public distrust, it seems clearer that the "designer stubble" so prevalent among pop stars could be a definite turn-off for voters. David Water of Men’s Health Magazine said, "Grooming can be as important as the manifesto in politics. Stubble would certainly not be part of the outfit - they need to look clean, smooth and smart."

 

10th June 2001                        

 

Links to previous news comments:

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

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