UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Irish lesson for Clegg: get coalition right or face oblivion


If the Irish experience of coalition politics is anything to go by, Nick Clegg risks a lot more than unpopularity if he strikes a half-baked coalition deal with the Conservative Party. He also faces electoral oblivion should he fail to win enough concessions and power to carry his grassroots supporters with him.

Ireland’s pro-business Progressive Democrats (PDs) — relatively loyal junior coalition partners in successive administrations led by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern — imploded at the last Irish general election, winning just two seats in parliament. They subsequently disbanded altogether.

The losses suffered by the PDs mean Ahern’s successor Brian Cowen now relies on a handful of Greens to make up the numbers but voters have also punished them for supporting an establishment party that has dominated Irish politics for decades, inflicting heavy losses on the Green Party in local elections last June.

Ireland’s Greens have subsequently enjoyed something of a recovery in opinion polls but only after standing up to Cowen, threatening to pull out of the government, issuing ultimatums and wringing concessions out of him, none of which augurs well for Britain’s oft-stated need for a strong and stable government.

Media scrum finds a new prey – the Lib Dems


When was the last time a media scrum chased the Liberal Democrats down Whitehall?

At the conclusion of talks on Sunday at the Cabinet Office between the Conservatives and the perennially third-placed party,  the Lib Dem negotiating team walked the short distance past the Cenotaph to the back of Portcullis House, part of the parliament buildings.

Coalition talks – a Liberal Democrat explains


David LawsTalks between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives about arrangements that might lead to the two parties forming the next government took place on Friday (May 7) and will continue on Saturday. Little is being said about the talks by either side, so it seems a good time to revisit a blog and video interview with the Lib Dems’ David Laws on the subject of coalitions I published last September from the party’s autumn conference. Laws is reported to be part of the Lib Dem team negotiating with the Conservatives. BBC’s Newsnight ran an extract from the video interview on Friday evening.

Here’s the article repeated below. The video is at the end:

A senior Liberal Democrat has lifted a lid on the murky world of coalition politics – a touchy subject for the party which last tasted national power in Britain in the brief Lib-Lab pact of the late 1970s.

Elections don’t get more exciting than this


It’s going to be a long night! Cliffhanger, nailbiter, whatever you want to call it — it doesn’t get more exciting than this.

Polls closed just over two hours ago and the exit polls show we are clearly in hung parliament territory. The Conservatives are projected to have the most seats at 305, but that’s 21 seats short of an overall majority.

Twitter users still agree with Nick


One the eve of the general election, our exclusive Twitter analysis of political sentiment shows that while the latest opinion polls point to a late rally by Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, users of the micro-blogging site still favour Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats over the other two main parties.

US market research firm Crimson Hexagon (on behalf of has been archiving all tweets on British politics since March 22 and analysing them for positive and negative sentiment. All parties have had their ups and downs, most notably in the aftermath of the first leaders’ debate (which led to a spike in support for the LibDems and the hashtag #iagreewithnick trending on Twitter) and Gordon Brown’s “bigot” gaffe in Rochdale,which gave us the highest percentage of negative tweets for any party during the campaign.

Nick Clegg’s celebrity-free hair cut



Nick Clegg went to a London barbers at the height of Cleggmania, where he might have expected to attract a bit more attention than usual.

The Liberal Democrat leader’s success in the first televised election debate had put his face on the front of nearly every newspaper and at the top of every news bulletin.

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.

Twitter users give their verdict on final leaders’ debate


The snap polls say Tory leader David Cameron was the victor of last night’s final leaders’ debate, but what did users of micro-blogging site Twitter make of the three main prime ministerial candidates?

Analysis of political tweets by research firm Crimson Hexagon for shows a spike in positive LibDem tweets, up to 22 percent from 14 percent the previous day. Pro-Labour sentiment fell four points to 8 percent, while pro-Tory tweets improved only slightly from 3 percent to 4 percent, despite the widely-held view that Cameron out-performed his two rivals last night.

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


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 — 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.