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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.

Clouds of change: Buzzwords from conference season

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dave1Opposition leader David Cameron has delivered his speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester.******Cameron told delegates there would be “painful” cuts in public spending, promised to send more troops to Afghanistan and stressed the importance of confronting “Labour’s debt crisis.” He also pledged to modernise the pension system, “break the cycle of welfare dependency” and cut back on bureaucracy to make life easier for entrepreneurs.******Cameron’s speech brings conference season to an end. Leaders of the three main parties — Cameron, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats — have all laid out their plans for Britain ahead of a general election due by June 2010.******The ‘word clouds’ below have been generated using the complete texts from each of the leaders’ keynote conference speeches, in the order they were given. At first glance there are some striking similarities and fascinating overlaps — but we will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.******How did you think each of the leaders performed? Who did you find the most convincing? Is David Cameron ready to lead the country?******Keywords from Nick Clegg’s speech:******cleggwordcloud2****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******Keywords from Gordon Brown’s speech:******brownwordcloud3****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******Keywords from David Cameron’s speech:******cameronwordcloud

On the road with Gordon Brown

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gbThe Prime Minister is on the move — and I will be following close behind.

I’m Sumeet Desai, Senior Reuters economics correspondent and over the next couple of weeks I will be with Gordon Brown as he travels to New York to the United Nations general assembly and then on to Pittsburgh for the eagerly anticipated G20 summit.

Then it is back to Britain — we will be at the seaside in Brighton for the Labour Party’s annual conference.

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