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Lib Dem party structure “tailor-made for trouble”

Liberal Democrats are proud of the democratic character of their party. The members have sovereign rights over party policy, proposing, amending and debating motions at their two conferences a year.

But is that the best way to run things now the party is unexpectedly in government? Historian Dennis Kavanagh thinks not. The structure of the party is tailor-made for trouble, he told a fringe meeting at the LibDem autumn conference in Liverpool on Sunday.

It has an elaborate constitution that suited a party that didn’t expect to get into power, for people who don’t want to take decisions and would rather have debates, he said.  As a result, the structure gives dissidents a lot of room to cause delay when they don’t like a policy the leadership – now in the cabinet – wants to adopt.

Kavanagh sets out his case in this short video clip recorded after the event, a meeting of the Liberal Democrat History Group.

How long can the negotiations go on?

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It should have been all over now. But no, we’re on day five and no one really seems to know which way things are going to go.

All over Westminster, people are looking tired. Journalists, politicians, aides and most of all the 24-hour news anchors.

Third-world voting system in UK? No, not really

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The airwaves have been filled with comments from furious voters who were unable to cast their ballots last night. We Brits think we can go around the world lecturing other countries on how to hold democratic elections, they say. But we can’t do it ourselves! We’re no better than those third-world countries!

I certainly wouldn’t want to minimise the frustration of the hundreds of people who wanted to vote and were not given a chance because of administrative mess-ups. I would be absolutely livid if it had happened to me.

from Photographers' Blog:

A break in choreography on the campaign trail

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On tightly-choreographed campaign trails there aren’t many photo moments that haven’t been carefully planned beforehand by spin doctors, so when Gordon Brown made an impromptu visit to a hair salon in Oldham, there was a ripple of excitement.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown accepts an invitation from Sue Fink to visit her hair salon as he speaks at the Honeywell Community Centre in Oldham, northwest England April 28, 2010.  REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Such unscripted moments create great opportunities for photographers because they offer a glimpse of reality and inject a human element into often monotonous days of speeches, handshakes and platitudes.

from Matt Falloon:

Brown soldiers on

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If a car slams into a bus stop just yards away as you launch a last-ditch election offensive, you might be forgiven for thinking that the gods are
not on your side.

But even after the nightmare week British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has had, such portents of doom have little visible effect on the self-proclaimed underdog in this, one of Britain's most closely fought parliamentary elections for 25 years.

Debate novelty wears thin

Thank God it’s over! The magic was certainly gone in the last of the three TV debates. Or perhaps we have just become too accustomed to this particular reality show which just seemed unexciting after the excruciating embarrasment of watching Gordon Brown being forced to apologise to a pensioner after he was overheard calling her “bigoted”.

The economy was meant to be in focus. But we heard nothing from any of the three party leaders we have not heard before. Labour’s Gordon Brown asked the public to trust his judgement. He called it right in the banking crisis and the economy cannot withstand spending cuts right now.

Twitter users turn on Brown after “bigot” gaffe

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We’re still waiting to find out if Gordon Brown’s gaffe in Rochdale yesterday (if you missed it, he called a 66-year-old, lifelong Labour voter a “bigoted woman”) does serious damage to his party’s performance in the opinion polls. What is certain is that it was the first serious blunder of the election campaign and the shockwaves were immediately visible on micro-blogging site Twitter.

Throughout the election run-in U.S. research firm Crimson Hexagon has been conducting exlusive research for Reuters.co.uk — archiving all UK political tweets and analysing them for positive and negative sentiment. The three main parties have each experienced ups and downs throughout the campaign. Not surprisingly, we saw a spike in positive Liberal Democrat tweets  following Nick Clegg’s impressive performance during the first leaders’ debate, while positive sentiment towards David Cameron’s Conservatives has dwindled since we started analysing tweets on March 22.

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.

Was it the worm wot won it?

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My colleague Ross Chainey has blogged about how Nick Clegg emerged as the winner on most measures from last night’s TV debate. But there’s another battle going on in this election — that between traditional broadcast and new-fangled social media.

“In real terms last night was the triumph of broadcast media over digital media,” the head of digital at one of the parties told me this morning.

“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.

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