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United Kingdom

Yearbook 1997

UK. The May 1 parliamentary elections ended 18 years of conservative rule and gave Labor a large majority with 419 of the lower house's 659 seats. The Conservatives' parliamentary group was halved to 165 seats. Labor's headwind continued throughout the year with very high opinion rates for the government and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Outgoing Prime Minister John Major also left the post of leader of the Conservative Party and was replaced by former Wales Minister William Hague.

1997 United KingdomLabor went to the election on promises of shorter health care queues, better state schools and faster action against young criminals. Labor also promised a "constructive" EU policy, which stated that the new government signed the EU social charter and introduced a guaranteed minimum wage and expressed interest in participating in the EMU, but not from the start.

Labor's election promises also included increased regional self-government. According to Countryaah, a referendum in Scotland on a parliament of its own with taxing powers was supported by a large majority. A Scottish Parliament can be formed in 2000. The residents of Wales also voted - but with a very small majority - in 1999 to form their own decision-making assembly, though with more limited powers.

1997 United Kingdom

An important consequence of the change of government was the resumption of peace talks in Northern Ireland. The IRA's political branch Sinn Féin made its best choice in 40 years and got its two leading representatives in parliament. However, they did not take their places because they refused to obey the British crown. In the municipal elections in Northern Ireland later in May, Sinn Féin also made strong progress and demanded that they be allowed to participate in the peace negotiations. After several official contacts between the government and Sinn Féin, the IRA resumed the ceasefire that was broken in February 1996 on 20 July. On 29 August, the government considered that the ceasefire was stable and invited Sinn Féin to the negotiations. After Sinn Fein signed a declaration of principle on non-violence, the government agreed that a disarmament of the IRA could take place during the negotiations.

The peace talks began in October and will end in May 1998, after which residents of Northern Ireland and Ireland will decide on the result in referendums. The negotiations concern both confidence-building measures between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and how the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland should be regulated.

Tony Blair's meeting with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams on Downing Street in December was described as the clearest sign of a new spirit entering the relationship between the British authorities and Republicans. Just a few weeks later, however, new adversities in peace work were feared after members of an IRA outbreak group shot dead a Protestant terrorist inside the Maze prison in Belfast and protesters were immediately avenged with two murders of Catholics.

During the summer and autumn, the Bank of England raised the interest rate five times to counteract an overheating of the economy. The pound strengthened strongly against other currencies during the summer and inflationary pressure increased. A rapid increase in retail sales increased the GDP growth rate to 3.4%.

Labour's budget in July was aimed at creating financial stability, increased investment and new jobs for young people and single parents. The corporate tax rate was reduced and companies employing long-term unemployed were promised support. Additional grants totaling £ 3.5 billion for the school and health care were funded through a one-off tax on particularly profitable companies in the energy and communications sectors.

A legal scandal shook the country in February when it was revealed that three men convicted of murder in 1979 have been innocently jailed for 18 years. A new investigation showed that "the Bridgewater Three" was convicted of police manipulated evidence.

Princess Diana's death in a car crash in Paris on August 31 sparked a heated debate over the sensation press's responsibilities and led to stricter ethical rules for the mass media. The royal house's rigid reaction to the death of the displaced princess caused a storm of opinion. Confidence in the royal family was restored somewhat by Queen Elizabeth's and Prince Philip's golden wedding celebration in the fall and a successful African public relations trip by Prince Charles.

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