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

25th August 2001 
Stock Markets finished on an upbeat note on Friday, as the FTSE100 index in London climbed 75.4 points to finish at 5471.9, 129 points up on the week. Much of the rally was accounted for by gains in the telecoms sector where confidence was boosted by Cisco Chief Executive John Chambers who announced that figures for the current quarter were "in line with earlier guidance" and that he was "pleased so far with August". Vodafone rose 12 points on Friday, Telewest added 10% to its value, Cable & Wireless gained 6.3%, British Telecom gained 3.2% and telecoms equipment manufacturer Marconi bounced 2.4% from its lowest ever position on Thursday to finish at 63.25. Colt Telecom, however, continued its slide and finished at 199.

The biggest climber among new issues on the London Stock Market was Innovation Group, whose shares rose 22.5 pence on Friday (7.4%) to finish at 327.5. Despite the rise, Innovationís shares remain well down on their bounce to over 400 earlier this month, and far from their high of over 800 shortly after their issue in May this year.

British American Tobacco is to challenge a ruling of the European Union to crack down on cigarette advertising. The company accuses the EU of "legislating beyond its powers", and is to take its case to the European Courts of Justice. Shares in BATS dropped 5 points on Friday to finish at 600, but still up 30 points on the week with the news that the Vietnamese Government had given the go-ahead for a joint venture with the Vietnam National Tobacco Company.


I see that UK Health Secretary Alan Milburn has announced he has given the go-ahead for health authorities to send patients abroad for treatment if they are likely to face "undue delay" waiting for treatment.
Once I managed to clear my mind of a bizarre picture of patients waiting at casualty departments being shuffled into waiting helicopters for transfer to some distant country where local doctors resembling Hollywood-style mad scientists with an array of fearsome surgical instruments rub their hands with glee, I thought Ďwhat a good ideaí. After all, weíre supposed to be part of the European Union, and if there is spare capacity in another country, why not make use of it? Surely it must be far more sensible than having to wait for months for much-needed operations, or trying to recruit doctors and surgeons from countries that really need more of their own?

All the same, something makes me feel uncomfortable about it. Can you imagine: "Yes, your Aunt Agnes has had her operation and is doing well. You can see her as soon as she gets back from Warsaw Ė if the trolley survives the journey."


Politicians puzzle me. Politics puzzles me. Perhaps itís just me, but Iím sure it used to be much simpler. There was a time, wasnít there, when there was absolutely no doubt where we were? There was, I think, a right-of-centre party called "The Conservatives", a left-of-centre party called "Labour", and "The Liberals" falling somewhere between the two. In each of these parties could be found, naturally, politicians whose views reflected varying degrees of left-wing or right-wing opinion. Now itís baffling. Am I wrong to think that many of the views being put forward by prospective "Conservative" party leader Kenneth Clark are in fact much further to the "left" than those expressed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, leader of "New Labour"? Am I alone in finding some of the policies being put forward by "Red Ken" Livingstone, Mayor of London but a politician whose views are reportedly too far to the left to find support within New Labour, seem as far to the right as some of the near-fascist fringe in the Conservative party in the 1960s?

Is it me?

Are politicians, perhaps, becoming ambidextrous? Or are they merely hiding their hands in a cynical attempt to hoodwink the public?

It is heartwarming to see, however, that politicians continue to manage the occasional "public scandal". I thought for a while we were going to lose this marvellous and traditionally British entertainment, or that the lines there too were becoming blurred. Mentioning no names here - Iíll leave that to the tabloid journalists who are so good at it Ė but it really is comforting to know that Conservatives are doing their best to maintain their propensity for sex scandals while Labour concentrate on financial impropriety.

Donít they?

25th August 2001                        

Links to previous news comments:

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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