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a personal view from Erithacus
18th October 2003
Stock markets had a cheerful week, and although finishing well off the week’s highs the FTSE100 index at 4344, 33 points up on the previous Friday’s close.
The high point of the week was on Wednesday when the FTSE100 rose briefly above 4390 on sudden optimism that the 4400 level would be reached. Encouraging economic signals from the U.S. and a rise in levels of consumer confidence helped to boost traders’ enthusiasm. Confidence in tech shares was even more pronounced, with the Techmark index rising to 1022 on Wednesday although dropping back to finish at 1010.94.
However, although UK markets all finished up for the day on Friday, the U.S. markets fell almost as soon as they opened, with the Dow Jones index losing 69.93 for the day (0.71%) but managed to hang on to some of the rises earlier in the week to make a net gain of 0.49% when it closed at 9721.79. The Nasdaq was down 37.78 on the day (1.94%) and had lost 0.15% on its previous week’s close.
Analysts blamed the falls on poor trading figures and some worse than expected profit forecasts, as well as a move back into bonds after heavy selling over the last two weeks. Falls in gold, crude oil and the dollar were also noted.
UK markets are expected to fall sharply on opening Monday following the U.S. losses, but most traders seem to feel the UK will quickly shake off any pessimism and should manage to continue its recent rises for the rest of the week.
Tony Blair, as many political commentators were not slow to notice, did a passable impression of Margaret Thatcher and confirmed he did not intend to change his policies no matter how much pressure might be put on him. He did not, of course, actually use Maggie’s words and say he was "not for turning", but chose the words "I can only go one way. I've not got a reverse gear." It seemed, too, that the words "You reverse if you want to" were almost on his lips at the Labour Conference as he walked a political tightrope between the middle-of-the-road image he has tried to cultivate for New Labour and what Margaret Thatcher had described in her famous "not for turning" speech in 1980 as "Labour's Orwellian nightmare of the Left".
So as Tony rushes in a lemming-like straight line, unable to reverse no matter what change of circumstance he meets, we might take the opportunity to have a look at the alternatives:
Iain Duncan Smith was doing so well. Far though he may have been in the eyes of many, perhaps, in re-creating a credible opposition party, he had made significant progress in rebuilding the image of the Conservative Party as well as transforming and quantifying the party’s policies. More than that, he, together with party chairman Theresa May, had attempted to make the Conservatives more attractive to the traditional Labour voters by, among other things, moving away from the old right-wing image with the election of Britain’s first black parliamentary candidate in a safe seat, and Britain’s first openly gay Conservative party candidate.
Perhaps this is why there now seems to be a faction of the Conservative Party which clearly has the knives out and seems determined to get rid of him. As almost everyone in politics as well as those who watch and commentate on politics must surely know, the "scandal" of how much he paid his wife for doing (probably) very little work is nothing more than mud-slinging. With Iain Duncan Smith having just given what even his critics must surely agree was an excellent speech at the party conference, it would be a remarkable coincidence if this matter had surfaced right now unless someone with a grudge had been desperately digging for anything to cause him problems. It is interesting too that this has arisen just when Tony Blair was under pressure from both inside his own party and from the media over Iraq, over Dr Kelly and over his own policies, none of which now rates a mention as the press goes into a feeding frenzy on the supposed imprudence of Iain Duncan Smith.
Maybe we should turn to see what the Liberal Democrats are up to?
If he had any sense, Charles Kennedy would be keeping his head well down below the parapet. There seems little doubt the snipers of the press are in the mood to shoot anything political that moves right now.
Indeed, if Charles Kennedy has made any comments about anything much in the last week or so, it has been fairly well masked by the hail of fire directed at the other party leaders. It seems we have almost forgotten the Liberal Democrats’ triumph in the Brent East by-election, yet after a few brief shouts from the rooftops about how this demonstrated that voters had lost confidence in the other parties, Charles Kennedy seems to have managed to gauge the mood of the media correctly, and to have realised anything political that whiffs faintly of success is quite likely to be shot down in flames or, more accurately, booby-trapped and sabotaged.
"Got him by the
"Don't worry, it doesn't hurt."
"Please vote for me"
18th October 2003
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