UK stands for United Kingdom as abbreviated by
Abbreviationfinder.org. The big victory in the May 1, 1997 parliamentary
elections had given Labor a very strong majority (419 of the
659 seats of the House of Commons), and the new government
was able to work relatively undisturbed during the year.
Prime Minister Tony Blair is still enjoying great
popularity. In January, Labor challenged its voters for the
first time when a controversial welfare reform was launched.
Among other things, the contributions to single parents were
lowered, and the contributions to the disabled should be
tested for needs. The UK government wants to get as many of
the country's contributors as possible to start working
again and break their dependency. But the proposals were not
accepted by the Labor Party's left wing, and the designated
groups also reacted very negatively.
Later, Finance Minister Gordon Brown introduced a more
popular New Deal reform for young unemployed people. Brown
promised to start a crusade against unemployment and that
anyone between the ages of 18 and 24 who has been unemployed
for six months should get a job or education. To further
dampen criticism and to make work more attractive than
grants, Finance Minister Brown introduced in his new budget,
which was presented in March, a guaranteed minimum wage and
tax exemption for the lowest paid.
But welfare reform had nevertheless damaged confidence in
the Labor government. Social Minister Harriet Harman had to
carry the dog's head and was forced to resign when Blair
reformed his government in June. Several other ministers
were replaced by new ones, among others. it disputed Peter
Mandelson, one of Blair's closest men, who became a new
Minister of Commerce.
In March, 200,000 people marched through London in one of
the biggest demonstrations of many years. It was a loose
coalition of different groups, all of which demanded a
greater understanding of the rural population. The
requirements ranged from increased rights to hike on private
land to increased financial support for the farmers affected
by the BSE crisis (mad cow disease crisis). However, the
frustration of meat producers eased somewhat when the EU
finally decided to lift the ban on the export of British
beef 32 months after it was introduced on March 27, 1996.
However, it will be until spring 1999 before British meat
exports can be resumed again. During the long blockade, 4
million cattle have been slaughtered, which is estimated to
have cost the UK taxpayers about 4.6 billion pounds despite
compensation from the EU.
One of Labour's most important election promises was to
modernize Britain, and already in the first year in power,
referendums were held that led to increased independence for
Scotland and Wales. A new referendum during the year decided
that London should also have its own political government
and a directly elected mayor. Now the very old-fashioned
upper house, The House of Lords, is in turn to be adapted to
the new Labor guidelines. The government wants to abolish
the nobility's inheritance right to debate and vote in the
upper house, but the heirs have announced that they do not
intend to let their old privileges disappear without a fight
and the conservatives in the lower house have also opposed.
Conservative leader William Hague was subjected to public
humiliation when he discovered that the Conservative leader
in the upper house, Lord Cranborne, had negotiated behind
him on his back to save some of the inheritance for the time
being. Hague dismissed Cranborne, while another six
Conservatives in the upper house resigned in protest, and
the Tory leader's authority was questioned. The historic
democratization of the British upper house will be one of
the major political issues in 1999.
Tony Blair stated that the UK, which has chosen to stand
outside the EMU, must approach the EU in order not to risk
being excluded when the EMU enters into force on 1 January
1999. The UK government intends to strengthen its position
in Europe by increasing bilateral contacts with certain
selected countries: Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the
It looked as if 1998 would be another very successful
year for Prime Minister Blair, but just before the Christmas
holidays he suffered a severe setback. His friend and
adviser, the influential Peter Mandelson, was unexpectedly
forced to resign after it was revealed that he had borrowed
just over SEK 5 million from Geoffrey Robinson, Deputy
Minister of Finance with special responsibility for tax
issues. Robinson also decided to step down when it came to
Mandelson keeping the loan secret in order to borrow more
money, to an exclusive home, from other lenders.
See also Northern Ireland.