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'It's all Nick Clegg's fault'

Rory Cellan-Jones | 16:03 UK time, Thursday, 22 April 2010

In the middle of a furiously competitive election campaign, it's no surprise that partisan papers have turned on a political leader who has threatened to change the whole narrative.

Five years ago, we might have had to wait 24 hours before we saw how the general public was reacting. Now it takes a morning to move the whole story on.

And if you believe that Twitter is any guide to the public mood - a big "if", of course - many have reacted not just with indifference and scorn to the various attacks, but most powerfully with ridicule.

nickcleggsfaultFirst thing this morning someone created the #nickcleggsfault hashtag on Twitter - and it immediately caught on as way of ridiculing attacks on the Lib Dem leader.

By lunchtime, it was the third-biggest trending topic (that's a measure of interest) on Twitter around the world; as I write, dozens more Tweets with the hashtag are appearing every minute. Here are just a few:

"Just had a giant chocolate eclair with cream. All #nickcleggsfault"
"We've run out of houmous #NickCleggsfault"
"Pompey not being allowed to play in Europe. #nickcleggsfault"
"Got rid of the wasp and a new wasp has arrived. #nickcleggsfault"
"I got my debit card stolen #nickcleggsfault"

The blogosphere too reacted quickly to this morning's front pages, notably the Conservative blogger Iain Dale. He called the attacks on Nick Clegg "shameful", arguing that they would backfire.

His post has attracted a vigorous debate from commenters, many supporting him but plenty also accusing him of naivete.

And there's also been a robust response to the attacks on the papers from another Conservative blogger.

Benedict Brogan, whose paper the Daily Telegraph carried the revelations about payments into Mr Clegg's personal account, said the story was just proper scrutiny of a politician, not a smear.

The papers may believe that Twitter is populated by a cappuccino-sipping yoghurt-knitting liberal crowd - and that they have a better grasp of their readers reactions than the digital mob.

And here's another funny thing: a company which analyses sentiment on Twitter says there is a massive volume of tweets about Nick Clegg and they're all negative.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that nearly all those tweets contain the #nickcleggsfault hashtag, and that the company's computers just don't do irony.


  • Comment number 1.

    "the company's computers just don't do irony."

    Tsuh!! computers huh? No sense of humour!!

    On the main story though i'm sure everyone expected Nick Clegg to get smeared after his performance in the debate. If he does well again today i'm betting my live savings (for real) on the next newspaper to go for another smear. I'm sure i'll make a decent return.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hmm... there's only one comment here so far, and that's awaiting moderation. I know! It must be #nickcleggsfault :D

    It's interesting comparing sentiment on Twitter to those of 'conventional' polls - particularly since the second #leadersdebate is broadcast tonight...

  • Comment number 3.

    A brilliant piece of irony and for most it only supports the view that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems may well shake up the two-party system we have in this country. However, the irony of the hashtag will be lost not only on the computers but on the tabloids too - most of which will love it and promote it with only negativity towards Mr Clegg and the Lib Dems.

    For most of us on twitter this election will be the most entertaining as debates, jokes, views and humour will fly around the internet. You only had to watch the stream of tweets from the last debate to see how quickly and humourously each point was attacked and debated.

    My fear is that the hasttag will backfire and do more damage to the LibDems election hopes than the humour it has generated for those twitterers amongst us.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm looking forward to the election debate tonight #BBCsfault and #nickcleggsfault

  • Comment number 5.

    It's very interesting to be able to see such rapid feedback and sentiment, and also the limitations of machine-based aggregation of that sentiment (and the lack of understanding of irony).

    It will be especially interesting to see how this is affected by the second debate tonight, and by the general campaigning as we go forward.

    I'd love to see info on peoples reaction to the negative campaigning, especially the Conservative "let me do it again" posters versus the limited amount of positive, policy and issues-based campaigning out there.

    I don't want to know how rubbish the other guy is, I want to know how good YOU are, dear (wannabe) leader(s)...

  • Comment number 6.

    I just wonder whether Nick will use the same irony in tonight's #leadersdebate. All he'd need to say is that it must be #nickcleggsfault. :-}

  • Comment number 7.

    The media reaction to the massive ironic twitter response (which essentially sends up the reams of anti-Clegg column inches) betrays their supreme arrogance.
    After many years of controlling the public's perception of the public's perception, the media is exposed as being as backward and out of date as a two party race...
    But then it took the press long enough to wake up to the internet, so no surprise really

  • Comment number 8.

    If Nick Clegg wins the election everything really will be his fault, as the prime minister gets blamed for everything :-)

  • Comment number 9.

    Nice. I am so pleased that people do see though all the rubbish that get printed in Newspapers. I have read some of the hashcoded messages they are very funny.

    It is outrageous that by election day the lib dems will surely be well ahead of the other two parties in the polls, yet his party will still end up with the smallest number of MPs by a long way - No wonder people are so mocking. Democracy - Are you sure?

  • Comment number 10.

    All I have to say on the matter that if Nick Clegg gets elected to any position of power then much will be his fault, because his Lib Dems policys are mainly fanciful fantasy.
    He may come across as a nice guy on TV debates, but people need to remember that he is still a politician, he still refuses to answer detailed questions and in fact as much as possible, as with other politicians, just avoids them as much as possible by dictating the agenda, or as in TV debates, only agreeing to minor questions with NO feedback or opportunity for public questioners to prod further to gain answers.
    Nick knows people are desperate for hope, Nick also knows that many many people are going to increasingly suffer throughout the term of the next parliament, but he, like the others are just playing the nice guy image when the reality is that all 3 leaders are more like Jekyle & Hyde.

    Once they have attained the position they seek, they turn into little demi-gods, thinking that they know whats best for everyone when in fact they basically know very little about very little.

    They are like the surgeons of 150 years ago, and much of the time minor and few positives will generally be outweighed by the many negative.

  • Comment number 11.

    Looking at this blog and the rest of the BBC News site, anyone would think that Twitter was out in front in the opinion polls.

    When can we have some real news Rory?

  • Comment number 12.

    A yoghurt-knitting liberal I may be, but I draw the line at being accused of sipping cappuccino - it's espresso or nothing!

  • Comment number 13.

    What utter rubbish from the BBC all day. Cameron and the Tories have been hammered by the hard left media like you at the BBC but I don't see Cameron complaining. George Osborne has been attacked on a daily basis, yet now Vince Cable got a good grilling the BBC are angry.

    The BBC are a total joke, full of useless leftists. When we Tories get in boy are we going to take the BBC apart. Cellan Jones get your CV ready.

  • Comment number 14.

    Fishfinger (11) - see the big red and white banner at the top? Hmmm? See it now? Says "A blog about technology"? Hmmm? What's twitter, but a technology that a lot of folk use? Got with the program now? Hmmm?

    (With apologies to Stewie)


  • Comment number 15.

    Look up Rupert Murdoch (controls much of the media world wide) on Wikipedia, it mentions David Cameron!

  • Comment number 16.

    #11: you are so right #electtwitterpm

  • Comment number 17.

    i certainly wasnt ridiculing the papers...i was agreeing with them by putting #nickcleggsfault. pretty sure lots of other people were agreeing too.

  • Comment number 18.

    #11 I agree.

    @ Rory surely you'd have heard that Ubuntu 10.4 is less than 6days away from release. The Ipad and Windows 7 started having coverage quite a while before and after release. Hope its not too much to ask.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm sick of the BBC doing blows about Twitter and it's all #nickcleggsfault

    On a more serious note, I think half the tweets on this topic are intended to be funny and are not really an attack on Nick.

  • Comment number 20.

    I saw someone chalk "Tweet #nickcleggsfault" on the pavement on Bethnal Green Road last night at about 9:30pm. Is this an effective way of starting a meme? Or at least publicising a hashtag?

  • Comment number 21.

    #19 - I'd say it's nearer 98%. I suspect if you looked through all the tweets with the hashtag you'd find they're all *trying* to be ironic.

  • Comment number 22.

    look up on wikipedia, owner of sky news?

  • Comment number 23.

    "the company's computers just don't do irony."

    Another fine mess we can blame Nick Clegg for!

  • Comment number 24.

    I'd like to know why labour fat cats and other so called people representatives get to wine and dine at the taxpayers expense yet the real people who support educate and represent our nations children in our schools are having their wages docked while they are uncontrollably stranded abroad

  • Comment number 25.

    Nothing can be Nick Clegg's fault: he has never been in a position to do anything.

  • Comment number 26.

    I am surprised that so many people watch/listen to politicians .

    I live in the South Pacific where polls rating various occupations for trust and respect, always have politicians at the bottom below land Agents and 2nd Hand Car Dealers.

  • Comment number 27.

    Twitter is not in anyway a bellwether for GE2010. It's instant feedback yes, but it's instant feedback of a small minority of the population, we don't even know if those that are tweeting are actually eligible to vote.

  • Comment number 28.

    Erm how do you knit a Yoghurt? I'm on twitter and I don't drink cappucino have no idea how to knit a yoghurt - glad to see I'm not boxed into a corner.

    I think the #tag is genius - I even posted a few myself.

    "I was given a second inhaler and now have hayfever #nickcleggsfault"

  • Comment number 29.

    I can't understand why anyone would vote for the Cleggeral Cleggocrats. He may be a good speaker but their policies are dreadful. For example, I am a parent at a faith school and I deplore their ideas regarding preventing faith schools from taking pupils who share the school's faith.

  • Comment number 30.

    pupils who share the school's faith

    Children don't have faith, except in what their parents tell them. You no more get Christian children than you do Keynsian, Communist, or Neo-con children. Bringing a child up in an environment where every adult in authority that they encounter is pushing the same faith (where 'faith' simply means 'impossible to substantiate') view of the world is dangerously limiting. Where many of those groups have faith in the inferiority of women and homosexuals, deny the usefulness of the scientific method in understanding the world, and actively try to suppress knowledge of sexual health matters and use of life-saving basic technology such as condoms, then such a narrow-minded environment will simply raise a new generation of bigots.

    Children at least need to be exposed to a range of ideas, so that as they grow they can make up their own minds, rather than being saddled for life with whatever their parents happened to believe.

  • Comment number 31.

    If Clegg is this popular isn't it Brown and Cameron's fault?

  • Comment number 32.

    "Benedict Brogan, whose paper the Daily Telegraph carried the revelations about payments into Mr Clegg's personal account"

    Revelations? Really?

  • Comment number 33.

    I found this piece very interesting. It's definitely #nickcleggsfault

  • Comment number 34.

    The term is "yoghurt weavers".

    And it's a shame there's no

  • Comment number 35.

    The media reaction to the massive ironic twitter response (which essentially sends up the reams of anti-Clegg column inches) betrays their supreme arrogance. After many years of controlling the public's perception of the public's perception, the media is exposed as being as backward and out of date as a two party race...But then it took the press long enough to wake up to the internet, so no surprise reall


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