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Political theatre unfolds according to script

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BRITAIN-ELECTION/There was a big fuss but no suspense this morning outside Number 10 Downing Street. In what has become a typical pattern in the world of 24-hour news, media organisations had been briefed in advance on the content and the choreography of Gordon Brown’s election announcement. This was the ultimate scripted, pre-packaged news event.

A huge pack of photographers, cameramen and journalists crowded behind crash barriers across the street from the famous black door from the early hours of the morning. The place was abuzz with technicians doing sound checks and taping cables to the ground with duct tape. The TV channels had lined up their star presenters in smart suits and ties, while behind the cameras reporters huddled in fleeces and scarves to fend off the morning cold in the notoriously draughty street.

“What’s going on?” joked Bob Ainsworth, the defence minister, as he arrived for a cabinet meeting before Brown set off to see the Queen. Indeed, anyone in Britain equipped with a TV set or a radio had already been given ample warning that the prime minister was about to ask for the dissolution of parliament and to call an election for May 6.

Veterans of previous election campaigns said Brown staged his big announcement very much in the traditional way, the only novelty being his decision to appear flanked by his cabinet rather than by himself. This was interpreted as a way to offset his personal unpopularity by presenting a team of familiar faces. Brown may also have been trying to draw a contrast with the Conservatives, whose leader David Cameron is widely seen as their main electoral asset but whose other senior figures are little known to most voters.

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.

What if it’s not the economy, stupid?

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Gordon Brown is counting on a swift economic turnaround. It’s probably his Labour Party’s only hope of avoiding a humiliating electoral defeat to the Conservatives next year.

The latest news on the economy has certainly got people in Downing Street smiling. The housing market is stabilising and some commentators are even talking about Britain becoming the first major country to pull out of the recession.

What now for Britain’s “special relationship” with Washington?

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“He might not  have been the easiest of allies, but an ally he has been.”

That’s the verdict of the Daily Telegraph in an editorial to mark President George W. Bush’s farewell tour of Europe.

Proud to fly the flag?

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FlagThe red and white flag of England will be flying above 10 Downing Street on Wednesday alongside the Union Flag to mark St George’s Day.

It will be the first time in recent history that the two flags will have flown above the Prime Minister’s official residence to commemorate England’s national day.

Unhappy mediums: Should psychics face tougher controls?

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crystal-ball.jpgAnyone who wants to spend money trying to commune with dead relatives has never had so much choice.

There’s a growing array of satellite TV channels, Web sites, phonelines and even psychic churches which offer the services of mediums.

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