Britain won’t hold a national election until May 2015, and electoral campaigns are short a matter of weeks rather than months. The conferences, which get heavy media coverage, give the parties a rare midterm chance to grab the attention of the electorate for good or for ill. “They are great opportunities, but there are dangers if things go slightly awry,” said Steven Fielding, director of the Center for British Politics at the University of Nottingham. Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives begin their four-day conference on Sunday in Manchester, northwest England, following gatherings this month of the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP. Like Britain’s economy slammed by the 2008 financial crisis and now spluttering along with a growth rate below 1 percent none of the parties is exactly riding high. Cameron suffered a shock defeat last month when Parliament rejected his attempt to authorize British military intervention in Syria a reversal that eroded both his status on the world stage and his authority among party lawmakers. Meanwhile, the rising right-wing, Euroskeptic party UKIP is nibbling away at his electoral support. Ahead of the Conservatives’ conference, Cameron sought to score some political points with plans for a tax break for married couples. The new policy, announced Saturday, would be worth roughly 200 pounds ($321) a year to about 4 million couples. Fielding said Cameron’s task when he makes his big conference speech on Wednesday is straightforward: “To get the message across: ‘The economy is mending. Labour was to blame and we’re fixing it.'” “The only story that is going to win them the next election is ‘We have turned the corner,'” Fielding said. The two other big parties arguably have trickier messages to communicate. Cameron’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, favor centrist economics and social liberalism. But they are demoralized after three years in a government that has slashed spending, curbed services and cut welfare benefits in a bid to rein in the deficit. Party leader Nick Clegg, who is also the deputy prime minister, rallied the troops by painting the Lib Dems as the Goldilocks party not too left, not too right that tempers the excesses of both Conservatives and Labour.
GAMEDAY: UK vs. Florida
UNDER PRESSURE Labour, which polls show is the frontrunner to win the next election, has come under pressure from its union backers and party activists to pledge to renationalize Royal Mail. While it has not ruled this out, Labour said it would be irresponsible to do so without knowing how much it could cost. The head of equities at a UK fund manager said Labour leader Ed Milliband’s promise earlier this week to freeze energy prices for 20 months if his party wins power in May 2015 may have made Royal Mail more attractive to some investors. “The income fund managers are quite intrigued by it (Royal Mail),” said the manager, who declined to be named. “If our friend Ed is going to make things difficult for utilities … this is potentially quite a nice thing coming through.” The government said it planned to pay a final 2014 dividend totaling 133 million pounds, equating to a full-year payout of 200 million had the group been listed for the full year. Based on the offer price range, that full-year payout gives Royal Mail an implied dividend yield of between 6.1 percent and 7.7 percent – making it attractive at a time when a regular UK savings account is yielding less than 3 percent. Britain has also agreed to hand 10 percent of Royal Mail’s shares to staff in the largest share giveaway of any major UK privatization. If distributed equally among the eligible 150,000 UK-based workers, each could receive 2,200 pounds worth. The government said it expected around 30 percent of the shares on offer would go to individual members of the public, who must spend a minimum of 750 pounds to invest in the company. Royal Mail, which no longer includes the Post Office services and retail business, has annual revenue of more than 9 billion pounds.
Georgia* 3:30 p.m. 11/9 vs. Vanderbilt* TBD 11/16 at South Carolina* TBD 11/23 vs. Georgia Southern TBD 11/30 vs. Florida State TBD WILDCAT KEYS TO THE GAME: When Kentucky has the ball The Wildcats will be facing their toughest defensive challenge of the season in a Florida unit that has future NFL players all over the field. First and second down are crucial for UK. The Cats must pick up good chunks of yardage on those plays in order to stay out of third-and-long situations, where the Gators are the stingiest unit in the country. Opponents are converting only 18 percent on third down against Florida this season. And then there’s the question of who’s under center for UK. Will Maxwell Smith’s shoulder hold up, or will the Cats have to lean on Jalen Whitlow for a dual-threat approach? Either way, theres no room for the dropped passes and unforced turnovers that plagued UK against Louisville. Bottom line: When UK gets scoring opportunities, it must cash in. There wont be many.