UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

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.

It is also home to a vibrant — and often vitriolic — political community that is certain to go into overdrive in the run-up to polling day and beyond.

But whose side are they on?

To answer this question, Reuters commissioned market research company Crimson Hexagon to conduct a detailed assessment of opinions expressed by the UK public about the political parties on Twitter.

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.

Blast from the past as Blair enters campaign

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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.

Webcast: Gordon Brown’s speech at Thomson Reuters

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown set out his economic plans during a Newsmaker event at Thomson Reuters on Wednesday. Brown said he believed Britain would maintain its coveted AAA credit rating and announced a pay freeze for senior civil servants and military officers to help reduce a record deficit.

Below is a recorded webcast of Brown’s speech and the Q&A session that followed.

Brown takes a different tack on Iraq

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BrownInquiryTony Blair said he had no regrets about removing Saddam Hussein when he ended his session before the Chilcot inquiry in January. Gordon Brown, not surprisingly, took a different approach.

Perhaps mindful of the anger that Blair’s words had reignited, Brown topped and tailed his appearance by acknowledging the  cost in human lives among British soldiers and Iraqi civilians of the conflict.

Hug a politician: the new election strategy

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brown_cameronYou know an election campaign is in full swing the world over when pictures start appearing of politicians kissing babies. But with a general election now just two months away, UK politicians seem to be have found new targets for their displays of affection: each other.

It started with Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. After stories that the Prime Minister and his Chancellor had fallen out with one another over an interview in which Darling accused Brown aides of having “unleashed the forces of hell” at him, the two popped up at the weekly Prime Minister’s questions almost arm in arm.

Where did the Tory lead go?

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An opinion poll published today shows the Labour Party gaining ground on David Cameron’s Conservatives. The Ipsos Mori poll found support for the Conservatives on 37 percent, with Labour on 32 percent and the Liberal Democrats on 19 percent.

Carried into an election this would give Labour the most seats in the House of Commons, although no party would have an outright majority. The Conservative’s lead has been cut from a high of 28 points back in September 2008.

What is Alistair Darling up to?

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darling Normally regarded as a safe pair of hands, Chancellor Alistair Darling raised hell on Tuesday night by confirming on live television what everyone in Westminster has believed for some time.

That was that there were people who worked for the prime minister who briefed against him after he told a magazine interviewer in 2008 that the country was facing the worst economic conditions in 60 years.

How big a problem is workplace bullying?

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worker2A political row is brewing after allegations of bullying were aimed at Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The claims, made in a book and published in a Sunday newspaper, accused Brown of several abusive outbursts, including grabbing staff by the lapels, shoving them aside and shouting at them.

Downing Street has strenuously denied that the “malicious allegations” are true, while Conservative leader David Cameron has said he expects there to be an inquiry into the claims.

TV interview shows Brown is brushing up

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BrownIt should have been toe-curlingly embarrassing but Gordon Brown seemed to come out of it pretty well, raising the stakes for the planned debates between party leaders ahead of the election.

The prime minister’s appearance on Piers Morgan’s celebrity interview programme on Sunday night must have been designed to  show a more human side to Brown — who often comes across as awkward and intellectual.

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