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Is Britain bust?

For 300 years our best minds have fretted over the threat of national bankruptcy. As government debt surges upwards, they are doing so again. How worried should we be?

By James Buchan   August 2009

At the UK Debt Management Office, an outpost of HM treasury in the City of London, business is done in an atmosphere of professional calm. On a recent Monday morning, several dealing screens and desks were unmanned. Robert Stheeman, chief executive, had plenty of time to explain how he will keep Britain solvent.

You would not have thought that this unostentatious operation will issue more interest-paying government bonds in the next couple of years than in the entire 20th century; or indeed in all the centuries since the advent of parliamentary government in the middle ages. This time last year,…

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