UK. According to
Countryaah.com, the Conservative government under Prime Minister John
Major experienced another year of adversity, both at home
and internationally. On February 9, the IRA targeted a
severe blow to the Northern Ireland peace process with a
bombing operation in east London. The attack, which killed
two people's lives and caused extensive material damage,
ended the 17-month ceasefire. In June, an IRA bomb destroyed
parts of central Manchester. In June and October, attacks
were directed against British army bases in Germany and
Northern Ireland, respectively. The attempts to initiate
multi-party talks on the future of Northern Ireland were
also hampered by the fact that the Northern Ireland party
Sinn Fein (in effect the political branch of the IRA) and
its leader Gerry Adams were not allowed to participate in
the talks as there was no longer a ceasefire.
The municipal elections in Scotland and England in May
went very poorly for the Tory Party, which also lost a
number of parliamentary elections and was forced to rule by
a minimal majority for much of the year. In December, his
own majority was completely lost, and Prime Minister John
Major became dependent on support from the Northern Irish
In their own ranks, a large number of so-called euro
skeptics opposed the government's cautious wait-and-see
attitude towards the EU's monetary union EMU. Billionaire
Sir James Goldsmith formed an anti-EU party, the Referendum
Party, which demanded a referendum on EMU and threatened to
stand in the upcoming elections.
The fears that mad cow disease, BSE, which has affected
many British cows, may be behind a brain disease in humans
led in March to the EU banning the export of British beef.
The UK responded by conducting an obstruction policy in
various EU forums. Later, they met in Brussels by promising
to slaughter a certain part of the stock of cattle.
On March 13, a lone maniac killed 16 schoolchildren and
their teachers and then himself in Scottish Dunblane. The
massacre prompted an investigation into the use of small
arms, and in the autumn came a tightening of legislation.
In August, the divorce between Prince Charles and
Princess Diana ended.
The UK economy developed favorably in 1996 with continued
GDP growth (2.2%), falling unemployment (7.3%) and
relatively low inflation (3%). Exports increased, both to
the EU and to non-EU countries, especially the export of
cars. The increased real income led to increased demand in
both the goods and services sectors. But the economic bright
spots were not enough to create the "feel good factor" that
the government hoped for. Those already disadvantaged pay a
high price in the form of deteriorating public service,
continued low wages and poor security.
The Labor Party, which won several important election
elections during the year, had acquired a good position
ahead of the parliamentary elections to be held by May 1997.
However, the young, dynamic party leader Tony Blair had to
stand harsh criticism from his own, partly for his
authoritarian leadership style and partly for the right-wing
policy that many supporters believe has taken place in the
New Labor that took shape during Blair's more than two years
at the party leader post. At the end of the year, Labor was
20 percentage points ahead of Tory in opinion polls.