I’m as interested in the Queen’s Speech as the next political obsessive. All that proposed legislation, and the window it provides on the soul of the new government, should be pondered by anyone interested in the trajectory of British policy-making over the next five years.
Last week’s Queen’s Speech committed the first majority Conservative administration in almost two decades to a referendum by the end of 2017 on European Union membership. Measures to freeze income tax and extend childcare are also on the agenda. We’ll almost certainly see more devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, along with “English votes for English laws” at Westminster.
What’s the longest bridge in the world? It’s not San Francisco’s Golden Gate, or Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd Causeway (as a friend insisted when I asked him) or even one of those really long “over the horizon” ones in Scandinavia.
The world’s longest bridge in the world – by far – is the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge on the Beijing-to-Shanghai high-speed rail link. Stretching across the Yangtze delta, and completed in 2010, the Danyang-Kunshan is no less than 102 miles long. That’s over 29 times the length of Bromford Viaduct near Birmingham, the UK’s longest bridge. And it’s 116-times longer than the Humber Bridge, our widest single-span crossing.
After months of escalating tensions over Ukraine and talk of a new cold war, Russia and the West could soon reach a sanctions rapprochement. The eurozone economy is suffering badly and sanctions are partly to blame. Winter is also upon us, and that reminds everyone Vladimir Putin still holds the cards when it comes to supplying gas.
The clincher, though, is that Kiev is in a deep financial hole and fast heading towards financial meltdown. Unless an extremely large bail-out is delivered soon, there will be a default, sending shockwaves through the global economy. That’s a risk nobody wants to take – not least in Washington, London or Berlin.
Over in China, the two-week annual plenary session of the National People’s Congress is in full swing. The world’s most populous country is in the midst of a rare leadership change, involving the appointment of a new Premier and other top ministers too.
After a decade at the top, Wen Jiabao is bowing out, to be replaced by Li Keqiang. While most foreign coverage of the succession has focused on corruption claims linked to Wen’s family, we should also consider what lies in store for the second-largest economy on earth.