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Nick Clegg sets hearts aflutter


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Forget the Liberal Democrat policy on the Single Transferable Vote. It’s 43-year-old Nick Clegg’s boyish looks that are winning round the voters.

“I think that obviously everyone thinks that Nick Clegg is the most attractive option,” Farah, a 27-year-old lawyer, told me as she watched Clegg work a crowd of party supporters outside Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. Was she referring to his appearance? “I think that would be the general consensus of a lot of women,” she said laughing with embarrassment.

“Don’t you think he looks like Colin Firth?” another female observer, aged 33, said to me at the same event. If they make another sequel to Bridget Jones’ Diary Clegg looks a shoe-in as the love interest.

Others said it was his personality they found appealing. “He comes across as more knowing and calm and someone you can trust in,” said Claire,  a 20-year old speech and therapy student at De Montfort University in Leicester.

Anything can happen in UK election – and probably will


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We hosted a fascinating debate this morning on the implications of a hung parliament for business and markets. British Banking Association Chief Executive Angela Knight, a former Conservative MP; Jefferies Chief Financial Economist David Owen; parliamentary expert Philip Cowley; and pollster Bobby Duffy of Ipsos MORI were the panellists and the debate covered everything from the possibility of Prime Minister Clegg (Knight’s verdict: “the sort of person you’d like your daughter to bring home to marry, but you really don’t want him running the country”) to fears over the double whammy on May 7 of an unclear result and no resolution over a Greece deal.

The key message was not reassuring for voters and markets: anything can happen. As our marginals poll earlier this week showed, nearly half of all voters in key seats (as nationally) have not yet made up their mind definitively about who to vote for in the general election on May 6 — that’s the double the normal level at this stage of the campaign. The upshot is that you could see a major shift in opinion polls in the final week’s campaigning.

Jack Straw rejects plans to cut MPs


Justice Secretary Jack Straw spared me a few minutes on the campaign trail to explain why he doesn’t agree with Conservative and Liberal Democrat plans to cut the number of members of parliament.

After he quickly downed a bowl of soup in a cafe in London’s legal quarter, he described in this video clip how his plans to half the size of the House of Lords would be a better way to save money.

from The Great Debate UK:

TweetTracker shows Nick Clegg most liked


- Paul Afshar is senior account manager at public relations firm Edelman. The opinions expressed are his own. -

A famous German writer once said "personality is everything", which could not ring truer for the UK's General Election, and particularly "likeability" on social media.

Labour lavish spending a thing of the past?


Gordon Brown chose a brand new 545 million pound hospital as the backdrop to unveil Labour’s election manifesto but the document signals that Labour’s past lavish spending on infrastructure is a thing of the past.

In these budget-challenged times, the focus will be on extracting maximum value from every pound spent on health, education and other services, the manifesto makes clear.

Once a prince of darkness, now loving the limelight


BRITAIN-ELECTION/“Enjoy it!” That was the message from Peter Mandelson to Labour supporters this morning as he launched a vitriolic attack on the Conservatives during a speech in central London, clearly relishing every minute of it. Once nicknamed the “prince of darkness” for his ability to mastermind Labour’s strategy from behind the scenes, Mandelson has transformed into the party’s best public performer.

It was different in the days of Tony Blair, who could go out and dazzle the voters with his easy charm and passionate oratory, leaving Mandelson to the backroom strategic thinking that helped sweep New Labour into power in 1997 and keep them there for 13 years. Now fronted by Gordon Brown, whose strength lies more in his grasp of policy detail than in his presentational skills, and trailing the Conservatives in the polls a month before an election, Labour need all the charisma they can get. Mandelson has stepped up to deliver it, with evident jubilation.

Blast from the past as Blair enters campaign


Tony BlairTony Blair was back on the campaign trail today, doing what he does best, but whether the voters were happy to see him again is open to question.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown was hoping that Blair could still conjure up some of the old magic that helped Labour to victory in the last three elections. But it quickly became apparent that he conjured up a few demons too.

from The Great Debate UK:

Old traditions die hard in UK election campaigning

number10A study of constituency-level campaign techniques undertaken by Brunel University ahead of a general election expected in early May shows that direct mail is by far the most common method of contact used by politicians to reach potential voters.

Of the 27 percent of the electorate contacted by one of the three main political parties in February, about 90 percent received some form of communication through the post via direct mail, the study shows. Some 92 percent said they had been reached through mailings from the Liberal Democrats, 89 percent from the Conservative Party and 81 percent from the Labour Party.