2012: UK's biggest ever investment drive starts today

Could generate £1bn of UK deals.

More than 4,000 business leaders and politicians are gathering in London for an Olympics investment conference that the government says could generate £1bn of UK deals.

Lancaster House in central London is to be repositioned as the British Business Embassy during the Games, and play host to a series of events to promote British business to global leaders. There will be 17 held in total including a special business summit for China.

UK Trade and Investment, the government’s department for boosting trade overseas, has identified potentially £4bn of “high value opportunities” for UK firms to work on overseas, plus up to £6bn from direct investment in UK projects from international companies.

UKTI says inward investment by overseas firms created 52,741 new jobs in the year to the end of March, an increase of 26 per cent increase from the previous year.

In total, the government hopes the Olympics and legacy projects will add £13bn to the UK economy over the next ten years.

Economists, however, are not all in agreement that the Games will prove a boost to UK business. Richard Jackman, professor of economics as LSE told economia, "It’s possible to measure financial elements of the Games – the costs, the immediate income and spin-off revenue from restaurants or hotel spend. It becomes less straightforward when measuring the impact afterwards – the change in the character of an area, the sites that London inherits as a result. To what extent their impact is new or a result of displacement is less clear.

"There may be a gross benefit in terms of new facilities, but this was probably not the most efficient way of achieving it."

Raymond Sauer, economics professor at Clemson University, agreed. He said, "Investment in the Olympics is first and foremost an investment in sport. That’s the spirit of the Games. To see it devolve into an excuse or a vehicle for economic development would be unfortunate.

"Claims that it’ll do much for the economy are overstated." 

The government is relying on the Games to give the UK economy a much-needed boost after official figures yesterday showed that the UK GDP shrank for the third consecutive quarter, by 0.7 per cent to the end of June.

This story first appeared in economia.

Olympic Stadium. Photograph, Getty Images

This is a news story from economia.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.