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How did the party leaders fare on Twitter?

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There was no undisputed winner, according to the snap polls which followed the second leaders’ debate in Bristol last night. The instant polls were split on who had won, with three saying LibDem leader Nick Clegg was the victor and another two placing the Conservatives’ David Cameron in first place.

“The three main party leaders were unable to land a knockout punch on their rivals,” said Reuters correspondent Peter Griffiths, reporting from Bristol yesterday.

Some newspapers claim Cameron’s performance — viewed as an improvement on last week — may have put the brakes on the surge in LibDem support which followed Clegg’s resounding victory in the first debate, but exclusive analysis for Reuters.co.uk shows, on Twitter at least, the Clegg bandwagon rolls on.

Market research company Crimson Hexagon has been commissioned by Thomson Reuters to archive all tweets about UK politics and analyse them for positive and negative sentiment.

Experience versus change, but who’s the REAL change?

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It’s fascinating to watch Labour and the Tories search around for a response to Lib Dem fever after years of ignoring the third party and being incredibly rude to Nick Clegg every time he stood up to speak in the House of Commons. No sooner would the Speaker call Clegg’s name at the weekly cock fight that is Prime Minister’s Questions than Labour and Tory MPs would fall about laughing. Well, for the time being, the joke is on them.

Keeping their eyes firmly on David Cameron, still the main threat to Labour despite the wave of Cleggmania sweeping the land, Labour staged a press conference about the economy yesterday morning — strangely, at the same venue where Clegg launched the Lib Dem manifesto last week. Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson and Alistair Darling came armed with a new campaign prop: a fake radio news bulletin dated June 25, offering an alarming scenario of what would be happening to Britain under a Conservative government.

Twitter learns to love the LibDems

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Our exclusive analysis of  political sentiment expressed on Twitter.com shows a surge in pro-LibDem tweets since Nick Clegg’s successful performance in the leaders’ debate on Thursday evening — mirroring the huge swing towards the party in the opinion polls.

U.S. marketing firm Crimson Hexagon is archiving all political tweets throughout the election for Reuters.co.uk and analysing them for positive and negative sentiment. The latest statistics show a dramatic spike in positive LibDem sentiment, sparked by Clegg’s universally praised performance during the televised debate, the first of its kind in British politics.

from The Great Debate UK:

Fears of UK hung parliament may be overstated

-- The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Fears of a huhugodixon-150x150ng parliament following the UK's general election may be overstated. With Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, Britain's third largest party, performing well in the first prime ministerial debate, sterling has received a mild knock. Investors do not like the uncertainty that goes with a hung parliament. While many European countries are used to coalition government, the UK is traditionally a two-party system - with government swinging between Labour and the Conservatives.

What did Twitter make of the leaders’ debate?

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History was made last night with Britain’s first televised political leaders’ debate, which was seen as an opportunity for Labour’s Gordon Brown, The Conservatives’ David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg to stamp their authority on an election campaign that has so far failed to generate much excitement.

Outsider Clegg was judged the clear winner by almost every snap poll followinged the ITV broadcast. Today a ComRes/ITV opinion poll of over 4,000 people who watched the programme has the Tories on 36 percent, LibDems on 35 percent and Labour on 24 percent — a 14 percent jump for Clegg’s  party.

Will a Hung Parliament create a serious hangover for British business?

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ParliamentElection day is fast approaching and with the poll gap narrowing between the Conservatives and Labour, there is a very real probability that the UK will end up with a hung parliament. For the first time since 1974, the UK may be left without clear political leadership.

- What will this really mean for British business?
- How will the markets and sterling react?
- Will a hung parliament scare off international investors?
- Could the economy survive a second general election within a year?

“Heir to Blair” Cameron seeks progressive mantle

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RTR2CL0L_Comp[1]David Cameron caused consternation among many Conservative supporters in 2005 by claiming that he was the “heir to Blair”. He learnt his lesson and has steered clear of that comparison ever since, although as this election campaign unfolds there are signs he remains rather more “Blairite” than many in the Conservative rank and file would like.

Survey after survey of Conservative candidates for parliament show that Margaret Thatcher is their number one political hero by a long margin. But when Cameron was asked on the Today programme to name the best British prime minister of the 20th century, he didn’t hesitate for a moment before saying it was Winston Churchill. An uncontroversial choice perhaps, as millions of Britons would probably also single out the wartime leader, but there will have been loyal Conservatives out there disappointed that Cameron did not pick their heroine.

Apathy in the UK – why Arabs take elections more seriously

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By Mohammed Abbas Blood, bombs and sweat defined my time reporting on elections in the Middle East in recent years, so the shoulder shrugs and general apathy I’ve seen covering the build up to Britain’s national ballot next month has been quite a contrast. I’ve just returned from Iraq’s March parliamentary vote, where people braved bombs to cast their ballot, and I also remember Egypt’s 2005 national vote, where opposition voters faced down armed police blocking polling centres in their area. Reports emerged of some resourceful Egyptians even using ladders to climb in, avoiding a beating at the door. In Britain, “Don’t know, don’t care,” was a surprisingly common response to my questions on UK politics, as I trudged streets gauging public sentiment on what is supposed to be the most hotly contested UK ballot in more than a decade. In the Middle East, it’s hard to get people to stop talking. From road sweepers to housewives, everyone seems to have strong political views, many quite sophisticated and well informed. The murmur emanating from clouds of hookah pipe smoke at coffee shops is usually politics, and Arab political cartoons are mostly sharp and hilarious, and are widely traded via email. While many Britons are taught to avoid politics at the dinner table, for Arabs it’s the main course, and often dessert. If anyone should be sceptical and indifferent about elections, it should be people in the Middle East. Even if you don’t run the risk of being blown up or beaten for voting, then the ballot itself is often of questionable transparency and fairness, at least by Western standards. Middle Eastern elections have in many cases been brought in begrudgingly under Western pressure, and in a region rife with autocratic and dynastic rule, are designed to alter the status quo as little as possible. Yet in Egypt, I remember the sweat and nervous energy of a packed and raucous rally for presidential candidate Ayman Nour, his supporters hoping — in vain it turned out — to end President Hosni Mubarak’s decades-long iron grip on power. Nour came a distant second to Mubarak and was later jailed on forgery charges. Mubarak, 81, has been in power since 1981. In Bahrain, the Shi’ite Muslim majority flocked to election tents for polls that would barely dent the ruling Sunni royal family’s grip on the tiny Gulf island. So why this difference in attitude? Why in Britain, where a free media can indulge in lively and frank debate, does politics elicit a yawn, but more often scorn, and in the Middle East, where censors often quash political debate, is it a hot topic? A full and proper answer would probably require some sort of academic study. But I’ll take a guess at some reasons anyway. Firstly, for many Arab voters, the election issues are more profound. In Britain, you’re asked to choose between parties for and against raising a payroll tax by a penny in the pound. But in Iraq, for example, you could be mulling which party is least likely to revive the sectarian bloodshed that resulted in the murder of several relatives a few years ago. Another reason, possibly, is that people in the Middle East have a stronger stomach for dirty politics. British scandals over politicians’ expense claims — for a bath plug, television, or at most, housing worth tens of thousands of pounds — have disgusted the UK electorate and turned many off politics. But in the Middle East, citizens are used to leaders spending millions on palaces, luxury cars, personal islands and planes. In a region where the rise to the top is likely to have been bloody or involved opaque and less than savoury back room deals, spending habits aren’t really that big of a deal. Or it could simply be that elections are still relatively novel in the Arab world, and subsequent ballots will see diminishing enthusiasm and participation. In Iraq, the buzz last month for the country’s second full national vote since the fall of Saddam seven years ago was noticeably more subdued than in the first ballot in 2005. Disillusioned Iraqis told me they would not vote because after voting in 2005, they found that politicians lied, were corrupt and were more interested in power and battling each other than fixing Iraq’s myriad problems. Maybe Iraqi and British voters aren’t so different after all?

ballotBlood, bombs and sweat defined my time reporting on elections in the Middle East in recent years, so the shoulder shrugs and general apathy I’ve seen covering the build up to Britain’s national ballot next month have been quite a contrast.

I’ve just returned from Iraq’s March parliamentary vote, where people braved bombs to cast their ballot, and I also remember Egypt’s 2005 parliamentary vote, where opposition voters faced down armed police blocking polling centres in their area.

Taking Twitter’s political temperature

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Britain’s first live television debates between the leaders of the three mainstream political parties are not the only new feature to add spice to the upcoming general election, which Prime Minister Gordon Brown today announced will be held on May 6.

The 2010 vote is also the first time politicians and their strategy teams have had to factor in the micro-blogging site Twitter.com. The social media tool, which did not exist at the time of the last election in 2005, now has over 75 million users who between them sent four billion tweets in the first quarter of 2010.

Lib Dems bag a Tory – Edward McMillan-Scott

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David Cameron’s troublesome Euro MP Edward McMillan-Scott is a Conservative no more and has joined the Liberal Democrats. There is no love lost between the independent-minded Macmillan-Scott and the Tories after they expelled him for defying the party over their (anti-)European policy.

He came to the Liberal Democrat’s Spring Conference in Birmingham on Saturday (March 13) and was more than happy to be pictured alongside his new leader, Nick Clegg.

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