Millennium Post

Reality bites Britain after jubilee

Proud to be lining the banks of the Thames in their millions, despite the rain and the cold.

Figures this month showed Lloyds Bank's business confidence measure fell to minus 21 percent from 26 percent in May, meaning most respondents had a negative view of the economy, which shrank in the last quarter of 2011 and first of 2012.

Prime Minister David Cameron - whose coalition government is faring badly in opinion polls amid the recession and a series of blunders - faced questions on Tuesday over the cost of the festivities.

‘People obviously say that bank holidays aren't good for the economy,' he said. 'But I think this year we have these two extraordinary events, 60 years of Her Majesty on the throne and the Olympics.

‘These are moments when we get the chance to show off the best of Britain.’

Nick Anstead, politics lecturer at the London School of Economics, told AFP: ‘One reason the jubilee was such a success is that it sits outside of the dissatisfaction the British feel with the political classes.’

Jubilee celebrations themselves were paid for by private donations, but the taxpayer covered costs like security and giant video screens for a river pageant on the Thames.

But from the extra day's holiday - plus a regular public holiday moved for the occasion - the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's ‘best estimate’ is a £1.2 billion [$1.5 billion, 1.49 billion euros] loss to the economy, about 0.08 percent of expected GDP, the culture ministry estimated.

This may be countered by an extra £700 million in tourism spending predicted by government body Visit England - though other analysts were more cautious, with Brand Finance predicting a total ‘leisure and tourism uplift’ of £308 million.

Retailers also hoped for a boost, but a spokeswoman for the British Retail Consortium told AFP on Wednesday, ‘The extent of rain seems to have reduced the expected uplift. The weather may have put a dampener on things.’

Britons will be treated to a second spectacular this year in the form of the London Olympics, starting on July 27.

The Olympic flame has gathered huge cheering crowds on its journey around Britain, but reactions to the upcoming sporting extravaganza have been mixed, given predictions of the cost now topping £11 billion.

A message from actress Francesca Martinez circulating widely on Twitter reads: ‘The royal family cost us £200 million a year. The Olympics 11bn pounds. Good that our money's being well spent in times of austerity.’
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