TIME United Kingdom

The Queen’s Speech Throughout the Years

Every year and after every election, the Queen outlines the government’s new legislative agenda in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech also known as the Queen's Speech. The speech is part of the opening of a new session of parliament and the Queen addresses both houses of parliament in the House of Lords. Queen Elizabeth II first made the speech in 1952 and this year's marks her 62nd address in the House of Lords. In 1974, the Queen made two speeches as there were two elections and she has missed it on two occasion due to pregnancy in 1959 and 1963.

TIME United Kingdom

U.K. Police Arrest 7 in London Jewel Heist

This is a an undated image made available on April 22, 2015 by the Metropolitan Police of the vault door and a hole leading into the vault, left, at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company in London.
Metropolitan Police/AP This is a an undated image made available on April 22, 2015 by the Metropolitan Police of the vault door and a hole leading into the vault, left, at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company in London.

The thieves entered the high-security London vault dressed in fluorescent vests and hard hats

(LONDON)—More than 200 British police swooped down on suspected jewel thieves Tuesday, making arrests in the notorious Hatton Garden heist that took place in London over the Easter weekend.

Triumphant police, whose early work on the case had been criticized because of the failure to respond to an alarm, said they believe some of the stolen loot has been recovered.

Scotland Yard said seven British men, ranging in age from 48 to 76, are being questioned in a London police station after the morning raids. The men were arrested in north London and in Kent, southeast of the city.

Commander Peter Spindler defended the police performance in the face of criticism of their previous efforts.

“At times we’ve been portrayed as if we have acted like Keystone Cops but I want to reassure you that in the finest traditions of Scotland Yard, these detectives have done their utmost to bring justice to the victims of this callous crime,” he said.

The methodical heist fascinated Britain. The gang members, dressed in fluorescent vests and hard hats, entered the high-security vault area in London’s world-famed diamond district carrying bags and wheeled garbage bins for carrying off the jewels.

They worked for two nights over the holiday weekend, drilling through concrete walls 2 meters (6 feet) thick to get into the vault, and left with the contents of dozens of safe-deposit boxes. Police did not assign a value to the heist.

Police said bags containing a significant amount of high-value property were recovered at one of the addresses and they are confident some of these were items stolen during the burglary, when thieves broke into a vault containing safe-deposit boxes.

Detective Superintendent Craig Turner asked victims of the high profile crime to be patient as police try to sort out the recovered loot.

“Police officers will be in contact with them,” he said.

Police acknowledged that the alarm system procedures in place during the robbery were not properly followed, giving the thieves plenty of time to break into the boxes and escape.

“We are now in a position to confirm that on this occasion our call-handling system and procedures for working with the alarm-monitoring companies were not followed,” police said.

“Our normal procedures would have resulted in police attending the scene, and we apologize that this did not happen.”

TIME United Kingdom

The U.K. Now Has More Gay Lawmakers Than Any Other Country

Parliament is getting closer to representing the population, but the battle for equality isn't over yet

Following last week’s election, the U.K. now has more lesbian, gay or bisexual Members of Parliament (MPs) than anywhere in the world. The Westminster House of Commons now boasts 32 MPs who openly identify as LGB (there are no transgender MPs) out of 650, making up 4.9% of the Parliament.

The data comes from the University of North Carolina’s LGBT Representation and Rights Research Initiative, but collecting statistics on LGBT representation is always tricky because some lawmakers may not have revealed their sexuality. In fact, there could be more gay MPs in another country where people do not feel as free to state their sexual preference in public. Nevertheless, the fact that more are willing to do so in Britain than elsewhere signals more progressive attitudes, putting it ahead of countries like Sweden where there are only 12 out lawmakers (3.4% of the parliament).

Elsewhere in Europe there are only two currently-serving transgender lawmakers, Belgium’s Petra De Sutter and Poland’s Anna Grodzka. There have only been two other openly transgender lawmakers in the world: New Zealand’s Georgina Beyer who won a seat in 1999 and retired from politics in 2007, and Vladimir Luxuria who was elected in Italy in 2006 but lost her seat two years later.

The number of gay British MPs is not far off the U.K. proportion as a whole, which is roughly between 5% and 7% of the country according to the government’s estimate. Thirteen of Britain’s out MPs belong to the center-left Labour Party and 12 to the center-right Conservatives.

It was the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron who introduced same-sex marriage in March 2014, despite significant opposition within his party. He has said this was one of his proudest achievements during his first term as Prime Minister.

However, it’s not all good news. In terms of representation, the cohort of gay, lesbian and bisexual MPs are all white (all but two of the 155 LGBT candidates who ran for election were white too) and only six are women. Although the recent election saw the biggest increase in the number of female MPs in Westminster, women still make up less than 30% of the House.

And with Cameron appointing a Minister for Equalities who voted against same-sex marriage, it remains to be seen whether more gay MPs will actually mean more progress for LGBT rights.

TIME United Kingdom

Newly Released Letters Reveal Prince Charles’ Passions

The Prince Of Wales Undertakes A Prince's Trust Awayday
Alastair Grant—WPA Pool/Getty Images Prince Charles, Prince Of Wales attends a Prince's Trust 'Make your Mark' visit to retailer Marks and Spencer, May 13, 2015 in London, England.

He writes about climate change, fishing, the military and more

(LONDON) — Britain’s government on Wednesday published a series of letters between Prince Charles and senior officials, written about a decade ago, that have been kept private until now.

The correspondence provides a glimpse of Charles’ writing style, as well as his efforts to influence officials on topics from badgers and albatrosses to climate change.

Here are some excerpts:

ON THE ARMED FORCES

Charles mostly stayed away from hard politics, but did on one occasion raise his concerns about cuts to the defense budget.

Writing about the delayed replacement of military aircraft, he said: “I fear that this is just one more example of where our Armed Forces are being asked to do an extremely challenging job (particularly in Iraq) without the necessary resources.”

— To Tony Blair, Sept. 8, 2004

ON FARMING AND SUPPORTING BRITISH PRODUCE

“Every support must be given to beef farmers so that they can seize the new opportunities and cope with the reduction in support — in other words they must be encouraged to co-operate and learn about marketing. … I wondered if it would be possible for the government to channel funds specifically to help the beef sector …?”

“So much depends on the consumer demanding British produce and I only wish that more could be done to encourage people to buy British … it would be splendid if the Government could find innovative ways to give the necessary lead.”

— To Tony Blair, Sept. 8, 2004

ON BADGER CULLING

“I do urge you to look again at introducing a proper cull of badgers where it is necessary. I, for one, cannot understand how the ‘badger lobby’ seem to mind not at all about the slaughter of thousands of expensive cattle, and yet object to a managed cull of an over-population of badgers — to me, this is intellectually dishonest.”

— To Tony Blair, Feb. 24, 2005

ON ILLEGAL FISHING

“I particularly hope that the illegal fishing of the Patagonian Toothfish will be high on your list of priorities because until that trade is stopped, there is little hope for the poor old albatross, for which I will continue to campaign.”

The decline of the albatross is thought to be linked to unregulated fishing.

Charles also raised the question of whether the Royal Navy could play a role in tackling illegal fishing.

“I am probably being very ignorant about all this, so please forgive me, but is the Royal Navy, for instance, included in the discussions on this issue? I daresay you will tell me there are all sorts of legal problems that prevent any worthwhile action…!”

— To the Fisheries Minister, Oct. 21, 2004

ON CLIMATE CHANGE

“Do rest assured that you have a great deal of support and all I would say is that you may find it worthwhile to explore not just what industry can do to cut emissions, but also the wider community. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference and would engage the public in the whole subject in a way that simply focusing on industry’s role will not.”

— To Tony Blair, Feb. 24, 2005

ON HERBAL MEDICINE

Charles, long known as a champion of alternative medicine, complained about a European Union directive on herbal medicines.

He wrote that the directive “is having such a deleterious effect in this country by effectively outlawing the use of certain herbal extracts.”

“I think we both agreed this was using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

— To Tony Blair, Feb. 24, 2005

TIME Britain

These Are the 5 Facts That Explain the Surprising U.K. Elections

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) stands with former former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (C) and former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, as they line up to pay tribute at the Cenotaph during a Victory in Europe (VE) day ceremony in central London on May 8, 2015.
Dan Kitwood—Reuters Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) stands with former former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (C) and former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, as they line up to pay tribute at the Cenotaph during a Victory in Europe (VE) day ceremony in central London on May 8, 2015.

A possible Brexit, the growing chance of an independent Scotland and other results from the campaign

The British people have spoken—and they want the Conservative David Cameron to continue as Prime Minister. But we don’t know if they want to remain part of the EU, or even part of their own United Kingdom. These 5 numbers explain yesterday’s election results, and where the UK goes from here.

1. The Losers

The Labour Party captured only 232 seats—surprising, since projections had them neck-and-neck with the Conservatives, their main rivals, going into the polls. Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, has already resigned after the loss. But the biggest loser of the night was the Liberal Democrats, who absolutely imploded and lost 49 seats in Parliament compared to their last outing. There was hope that the centrist party could capture enough seats to help the Tories form a coalition government. Now it’s a serious question whether the Lib Dems are even a viable political movement going forward given Britain’s increasingly polarized politics.

(BBC, The Guardian, The Spectator)

2. The Winners

The Conservatives were the big victors last night, securing 331 seats and an outright majority in the House of Commons. (All results are still preliminary.) The other significant winner was the Scottish National Party (SNP) and its leader, Nicola Sturgeon. SNP is a regional party which actively campaigns for Scottish independence, so its big night—winning 56 seats out of the 59 contested in Scotland—may come as no surprise. Still, it is shocking that SNP’s massive showing comes on the heels of a Scottish independence referendum in September which saw Scots vote decisively to remain part of the United Kingdom. SNP’s strong performance and insistence on greater Scottish independence opens the door for another Scottish referendum down the road.

Another winner was the UK Independence Party, or UKIP. A Eurosceptic right-wing group, it looks to have managed to secure only one seat in the House of Commons. But while it lost the electoral battle, it won the political one—by dragging Cameron and the Tories further to the right, advancing its agenda to pull Britain out of the EU. Furthermore, its solid performance throughout the country—it took 12.7% of the popular vote, third most after the Conservatives and Labour—makes UKIP a political force to be reckoned with and will increase calls for serious electoral reform. After all, the SNP is now the third largest party in government, yet it won less than 5% of the popular vote.

(BBC, The Telegraph, The Telegraph)

3. The Specter of an EU Referendum

Cameron had pledged to hold a referendum on EU membership by 2017 if the Tories remained in power. Cameron floated the “Brexit,” or British exit, scenario in a bid to win over voters trending towards UKIP. But in the process, he opened some old wounds. The UK has had an uneasy relationship with the EU since it rejected the Euro currency in 1991 to keep the Pound Sterling. Unlike European heavyweights France and Germany, which both fully embraced the European project, the UK has spent decades hedging. While the country is forced to pay billions into Brussels’ coffers each year, Britain has undoubtedly benefitted from its relationship with the EU, in particular its banking sector. In 2014 alone, financial and insurance services brought in $193.7 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy, 8% of the UK’s total GVA.

(The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Parliament of the United Kingdom)

4. London Calling Anymore?

With fear of Brexit looming over these elections, financial institutions began hinting at their disquiet. 72% of companies polled in Great Britain by the firm Grant Thornton believe a UK exit would hurt business. HSBC has warned that it would consider relocating its headquarters from London should the UK leave the EU. As it stands, the British people are roughly split on whether to exit the EU—in a recent poll 39% want to leave against 40% who want to stay. Some estimates have a British exit from the EU costing London $330 billion, or 14% of its GDP.

(Politico, The Guardian, Financial Times, The Guardian)

5. Unhung parliaments

Europeans are increasingly voting for anti-establishment parties. Hung parliaments (i.e. a situation where no political party has an absolute majority) are becoming the rule rather than the exception across Europe. Britain was expected to join them—Election Forecast UK had put the probability of a hung British parliament at 97%. Despite the Tories’ impressive victory, the impact of the SNP and UKIP on the election show that this trend continues to spread. Is this increasing political divergence a sign that democracy in Europe is breaking down or working better than ever? The success or failure of the next British government to resolve the country’s fractious relations with the EU and its governing institutions will help answer that question.

(London School of Economics, Business Insider)

TIME Great Britain

Obama Campaign Consultants Worked on Rival Sides in U.K. Elections

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron stand during a tribute at the Cenotaph to begin three days of national commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day on May 8, 2015 in London.
Christopher Furlong—Getty Images Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron stand during a tribute at the Cenotaph to begin three days of national commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day on May 8, 2015 in London.

British Prime Minister David Cameron kept hold of power and was moving to form a new government. In the wings, American political guru Jim Messina was adding another to his long list of wins.

Messina, a top aide to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and the chief of his 2012 re-election bid, joined Cameron’s Conservative Party as a paid consultant in 2013 and worked to export the latest innovations in American-style campaigning to the U.K. The former White House deputy chief of staff drew fire from U.S. liberals for joining up with Cameron, but it looked as though the Tories’ decisive victory on Thursday would allow Conservatives to form a government without the backroom dealings that created a coalition government after 2010’s U.K. elections.

A pair of Obama veterans, meanwhile, was recovering from rival Labour’s loss. Former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod and advertising maven Larry Grisolano had worked for Ed Miliband’s Labour Party, which suffered deep losses. Miliband resigned from his post as party leader and the Americans were heading back across the pond in defeat.

“Congratulations to my friend @Messina2012 on his role in the resounding Conservative victory in Britain,” Axelrod tweeted.

Messina, meanwhile, took a victory lap of sorts, telling MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that voters in the U.K. endorsed the Tories’ promises. But asked about Axelrod, with whom he clashed during two presidential campaigns and an overlapping stint in the West Wing, Messina attempted to be gracious. “He’s my brother,” Messina said.

International consulting is often a favorite — and lucrative — way for American political operatives to spend the time between elections at home. For instance, Bill Clinton’s pollster, Stan Greenberg, has a robust international practice that takes him to far off places such as Estonia, South Africa and Honduras — as well as to the U.K. for Miliband.

In the process, though, it often exports America’s long, often divisive campaigning abroad. Take Israel’s most recent election that shaped up as a proxy campaign of sorts for the United States’ ally. Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s digital adviser Vincent Harris helped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, while former Obama get-out-the-vote chief Jeremy Bird advised the Labor Party’s failed attempt to topple Netanyahu.

TIME U.K.

British Leader’s Party Scores Big Surprise Win in U.K. Election

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha return to 10 Downing Street after parliamentary elections in London on May 8, 2015.
Kirsty Wigglesworth—AP Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha return to 10 Downing Street after parliamentary elections in London on May 8, 2015.

Another term for Prime Minister David Cameron

(LONDON)—The Conservative Party swept to power Friday in Britain’s Parliamentary elections, winning an unexpected and resounding victory that returns Prime Minister David Cameron to 10 Downing Street in a stronger position than before.

Cameron’s office said he would go to Buckingham Palace, where he is expected to tell Queen Elizabeth II that he has enough support to form a government.

That brings the election to a much-quicker-than-expected conclusion. Polls ahead of Election Day showed Conservatives locked in a tight race with the opposition Labour Party, raising the possibility of days or weeks of negotiations to form a government.

Labour took a beating, mostly from energized Scottish nationalists who pulled off a landslide in Scotland.

With Cameron’s Conservatives winning a working majority in the 650-seat House of Commons, the election result looked to be far better for him than even his own party had foreseen. With 639 constituencies counted, the Conservatives had 324 seats to Labour’s 229.

The prime minister beamed early Friday as he was announced the winner of his Witney constituency in southern England.

“This is clearly a very strong night for the Conservative Party,” he said, stopping just short of declaring overall victory. He would be the first Conservative prime minister to win a second term since Margaret Thatcher.

“I want my party, and I hope a government that I would like to lead, to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost — the mantle of one nation, one United Kingdom,” Cameron said, vowing to counter the rise of Scottish nationalism with more powers for Scotland and Wales.

Labour, led by Ed Miliband, was routed in Scotland by the Scottish National Party, which took almost all of the 59 seats in Scotland.

“What we’re seeing tonight is Scotland voting to put its trust in the SNP to make Scotland’s voice heard, a clear voice for an end to austerity, better public services and more progressive politics at Westminster,” party leader Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC.

“The Scottish lion has roared this morning across the country,” said former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who was elected in the seat of Gordon.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy insisted he would not resign despite losing his seat but Miliband’s grip on the overall leadership seemed more tenuous, as the party failed to make predicted gains against the Conservatives across the rest of Britain.

“This has clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour Party,” Miliband said.

Cameron’s coalition partner, the Liberal Democrat party, faced electoral disaster, losing most of its seats as punishment for supporting a Conservative-led agenda since 2010.

Leader Nick Clegg did hold on to his seat but resigned as party leader Friday.

Almost 50 million people were registered to vote in Thursday’s election, one of the most unpredictable in decades. Opinion polls during the monthlong campaign had suggested the result was too close to call.

Votes in each constituency were counted by hand and the results followed a familiar ritual. Candidates — each wearing a bright rosette in the color of their party — line up onstage like boxers as a returning officer reads out the results.

But if the form was familiar, the results were often shocking.

Among the early Scottish National Party winners was 20-year-old student Mhairi Black, who defeated Douglas Alexander, Labour’s 47-year-old foreign policy spokesman and one of its most senior figures. Black is the youngest U.K. lawmaker since 13-year-old Christopher Monck entered Parliament in 1667.

One of the big losers of the day was U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who resigned after losing his race. His party ran third in opinion polls, but by early Friday had won only one seat because its support is spread out geographically.

Britain’s economy — recovering after years of turmoil that followed the 2008 financial crisis — was at the core of many voters’ concerns. The results suggest that many heeded Cameron’s entreaties to back the Conservatives as the party of financial stability.

Public questions at television debates made plain that many voters distrusted politicians’ promises to safeguard the economy, protect the National Health Service from severe cutbacks and control the number of immigrants from eastern Europe.

British voters reacted with surprise as they awoke to the news. Polls had shown a virtual dead heat in the race, and many expected weeks of wrangling over who would be in power.

“I thought it would be closer,” said account manager Nicky Kelly-Lord, 38.

But some, like project manager Jonathan Heeley, 42, thought it inevitable that a country struggling to rebuild in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis would be anxious to keep the economic recovery going.

“The country’s rebuilding itself and people want to stay with that,” he said.

The pound surged as much as 2 percent after exit poll results were released, as investors took that as reassurance that the country will not see days or weeks of uncertainty over the formation of a new government. The currency held onto most of those gains on Friday, trading at $1.5440. Stocks also surged, with the main FTSE 100 up 1.6 percent.

 

TIME Auto Racing

Idris Elba Proves He Can Drive Like James Bond

The actor broke a 1927 record in the U.K. for the "flying mile"

Actor Idris Elba broke a nearly 90-year speed record in the U.K. last weekend when he averaged more than 180 miles per hour during a one-mile stretch.

The Luther star was in the driver’s seat of a standard Bentley Continental GT Speed on Sunday in Wales, according to CNN Money. His top speed was 186.4 miles per hour during the “flying mile”—in which a driver can get up to speed before the car is clocked at two points, one mile apart—but his average was 180.4 miles per hour. Elba’s run came while shooting the Discovery Channel series Idris Elba: No Limits, which will air in July.

Elba beat out the last record, set in 1927 by Sir Malcolm Campbell, who hit 174.2 miles in hour.

Now imagine the car chase scenes if he ever actually plays James Bond.

[CNN Money]

TIME United Kingdom

British Legislative Candidate Suspended For Threatening to Shoot Rival

Robert Blay said he would "personally put a bullet" between the eyes of Ranil Jayawardena

A right-wing British parliamentary candidate, Robert Blay, has been suspended by his own party for threatening to shoot a rival candidate, the BBC reports.

His rival is Ranil Jayawardena, a British citizen of Sri Lankan origin.

Blay, who was running for the constituency of North East Hampshire, appeared in a video secretly made by a U.K. tabloid, the BBC says. In the video, Blay reportedly said that if Jayawardena ever became Prime Minister, he would “personally put a bullet between his eyes.” He also added that his opponent was “not British enough to be in Parliament.”

“I was shocked to hear about these comments and that someone who holds these types of views could have been selected as a UKIP candidate,” Jayawardena announced on Facebook Wednesday.

“My family believes in hard work. My father came to this country to do just that — never claiming a penny from the state,” Jayawardena added.

Blay’s party, the UK Independence Party, apologized to Jayawardena, characterized their candidate’s views as “abhorrent,” and immediately suspended Blay from the organization.

[BBC]

TIME Fast Food

A U.K. McDonald’s Is Reportedly Breathalyzing Some Late-Night Customers

"How do you get turned away from McDonalds for being too drunk?” one customer asked

A McDonald’s restaurant in the British city of Cambridge reportedly has bouncers breathalyzing some late-night customers as part of a police pilot program to combat troublesome late-night behavior.

A 25-year-old teacher was barred from entering the establishment at 2 a.m. after he was found to be over the alcohol limit for driving, the Cambridge News reports.

“How do you get turned away from McDonalds for being too drunk?” he told the newspaper in disbelief. “I don’t know why anyone would be there at 2am if they hadn’t been drinking.”

A McDonald’s spokeswoman told the newspaper it’s part of a police initiative: “At the request of Cambridgeshire police we are taking part in their pilot [program]. A person’s behavior will determine the likelihood of them being breathalyzed and this should have no impact on the majority of our customers.

[Cambridge News]

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