London’s benchmark stock index, the FTSE 100, rallied more than 2pc, with banks and energy companies chalking up big gains. The FTSE 250, which tracks medium-sized British companies, surged even more. The pound was rampant, rising steadily as the dramatic Thursday night exit poll solidified into a Friday morning realisation the Conservatives hadn’t just beaten Labour, but secured a slender overall majority.
Not only would the UK now be more business-friendly, with lower bank levies and less nasty market intervention during the coming parliament. Markets were also relieved to avoid the messy negotiations, the days or even weeks of uncertainty, over who would be running the world’s fifth-biggest economy.
The dissolution of parliament last Monday, and subsequent television “debates”, means campaigning has officially begun ahead of the most uncertain election in a generation. There’s no easy way to summarise what might happen on Thursday May 7 – suffice to say that we’ll almost certainly see an indecisive hung Parliament.
The identity of the British government will then depend on frenzied negotiations that could leave the world’s sixth-largest economy in political limbo for weeks or even months. A prolonged struggle over power-sharing – which, as in 1974, might result in a second general election – could unleash big constitutional uncertainties as parties press their respective agendas. A resurgent Scottish National Party may demand another independence vote. We could even see a snap referendum on the UK’s European Union membership.
“London’s games are Great Britain’s games”. So said the iconic BBC commentator Barry Davies, at the start of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics. A 4-hour extravaganza, it was a show that stunned and delighted the world.
The start of the 30th Olympiad showcased the UK’s creative and organizational genius. It was a stylish reminder of the huge impact of our small North Atlantic nation has had on broader humanity. And what did this high-octane celebration of Britain’s shared history and culture kick-off with? Successive choruses sang with reverence and respect by sweet-voiced schools kids from the UK’s four corners.
We had Jerusalem, Danny Boy and the Welsh tearjerker Bread of Heaven. And, at the heart of the mix, from a place integral to our on-going island story, we heard the Flower of Scotland.
While the UK is four distinct countries, each with its own identity, we’re one coherent nation. Cobbled together, in a form that somehow works, our joint history of achievement and success is as rich as any on earth. That’s how we presented ourselves during that masterful Olympic Opening Ceremony in July 2012 – and the world roared back its approval.