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By Peter Curwen (eds.)

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Sample text

In particular, high levels of demand tended to be associated with high levels of imports, the more so as the UK became increasingly unable to compete internationally with respect to her manufactured goods. Now, a BoP deficit can be dealt with in a number of different ways: a b c the domestic economy can be deflated (expenditure reducing) so that there is less demand to spill over into imports; the price of imports can be raised, and that of exports lowered, via an alteration in the exchange rate (expenditure switching); artificial retraints on trade can be introduced, such as tariffs and quotas on imports or subsidies to exports.

For example, it is possible to argue simultaneously that the UK's growth record during the 1980s was good because it remained high by international standards for many years, and that it was bad because the level of output barely rose above the level achieved at the time the government first took office. Equally, the inflation rate did fall to well below 5 per cent at one stage during the 1980s, the soaring money supply notwithstanding, and it is currently comfortably below that figure, but it has never shown any sign of getting down to zero and until very recently has remained fairly consistently above that of some of the UK's main competitors.

A crucial - though by no means unique feature of the UK political system is that it involves a race to be 'first past the post' between a very small number of very strong contenders, and a number of 'also-rans'. Each constituency race produces a single Member of Parliament (MP) who may well fail to be supported by a majority of those casting their vote, let alone of those eligible to vote. Hence this system permits of a government being formed by a political party irrespective of whether it has been supported by more voters than any other alternative party, let alone all other parties in aggregate, and once a government has been formed the level of electoral support is normally a non-issue until the electoral term is over.

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