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Were 13,000 Twitter bots at work during Euro referendum?

It looks like a network of 13,000 Twitter bots (yes, 13,000 bots, or the equivalent of 20 for every Parliamentary constituency to give that number a bit of perspective) was used to pump out pro-Brexit messages during the European referendum last year.
As Buzzfeed reports:

Researchers have uncovered new evidence of networks of thousands of suspect Twitter bots working to influence the Brexit debate in the run-up to the EU referendum.

The findings, from researchers at City, University of London, include a network of more than 13,000 suspected bots that tweeted predominantly pro-Brexit messages before being deleted or removed from Twitter in the weeks following the vote.

The research – which is published in the peer-reviewed Social Science Computer Review journal and was shared exclusively with BuzzFeed News – suggests the suspected bot accounts were eight times more likely to tweet pro-leave than pro-remain content.

WATCH: Jo Swinson talking about her political comeback

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson was on the Daily Politics this week talking about her two years out of politics after her defeat in 2015 and what motivated her to come back.
She cited the threat to liberal values posed by Brexit and Trump and the unwelcome prospect of another divisive referendum on Scottish independence as the driving forces which spurred her to contest her seat again.

Tom Brake responds to PM statement in Brussels

Responding to Theresa May’s comments in Brussels, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake MP said:

“The Prime Minister cannot say one thing in Brussels and another in Britain. She needs to face down the right-wing Brexiteers in her party in order to guarantee the talks actually move forward. Above all she still needs to protect citizens’ rights to ensure they are not a casualty of a no-deal Brexit, and the European Union must also do more to make this happen.

Nick Clegg’s Diary: Bickering Brexiteers and teenage footballers

The former Lib Dem leader on Europe, Hillary Clinton, and political defeat.

Tuesday

I spent a fair amount of time in TV and radio studios being cross-questioned about my new book. Funny how the Brexiteers – so ready to claim they have a democratic mandate to do what they like – get jumpy if you throw democracy back at them. They are failing to deliver any of the utopian promises they made to voters, so the electorate has every right to think again. To this, I was accused by one Conservative commentator on daytime telly of “talking down” Britain. A bit like accusing someone who observes that it’s raining of talking down the weather. Absurd.
In the evening, I attended a reception at Buckingham Palace to support people who work in mental health, listening to a good speech by Prince William and a funny and moving one by Stephen Fry. Almost exactly ten years ago I raised mental health at Prime Minister’s Questions when Gordon Brown was at the despatch box as PM, and I was a newly elected Lib Dem leader. At the time, it was considered a “brave” thing to do – party leaders never raised mental health in the Commons. So it’s massive progress that mental health is now talked about openly in parliament, in the media, and even in Buckingham Palace. But the gap between words and deeds is huge. The taboo may have been broken, but the problems of poor mental-health provision still exist.
Wednesday
I travelled by Eurostar to Brussels and then Ghent, where I gave a speech on JS Mill to an audience of Flemish Liberals. Enjoyable, if a little surreal. The talk was preceded by a tour of the basement archives of Flemish Liberal history, with filing cupboards full of memorabilia – from speeches by Guy Verhofstadt, to ashtrays, key rings and, curiously, sponges with the Liberal party logo on them.
My earnest reflection on the modern relevance of Mill’s 19th-century liberalism (answer: his appeal to reason stands the test of time) was delivered in a hall in which there was also an avant-garde photography exhibition. I was flanked by a picture of two painfully contorted naked bodies on one side, and a pile of garrotted mannequins on the other.
Thursday
The following morning, I caught up with some senior European Commission officials in Brussels, some of whom I’ve known for more than 20 years, from the time I worked there. One told me that the most striking moment in the Brexit negotiations so far was when UK officials asked whether the EU could provide Britain with “technical assistance” on how to process and transport nuclear materials, tasks presently overseen by Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community). “Technical assistance is what the EU provides to some of the poorest countries of the world,” my friend told me. “Now the UK is asking for help like a developing nation. Wow.”
Friday
Off to the Wells Festival of Literature in Somerset at the invitation of Tessa Munt, the inexhaustibly cheerful former Lib Dem MP for the area. Everyone we meet warmly greets her as “Tessa”. “The snap election in June caught us on the hop,” she explains, “but we’ll be ready next time, and everyone can now see what a pig’s ear the Tories are making of Brexit.” Apparently her Conservative opponent told a teenage schoolgirl to “f*** off back to Scotland” during a campaign visit. I reckon he’ll get his marching instructions from Tessa soon enough.
Book festivals – like all festivals – have self-selecting audiences: bookish, broadsheet, generally older, and overwhelmingly anti-Brexit. The kind of audiences who love Barack Obama and despise the Daily Mail. I felt totally at home.
On the late train back I watched the last episode of Ozark, a superb ten-part Netflix series, on my laptop. It’s not for the faint-hearted – all about an outwardly normal middle-class family who end up having to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel in a rural lakeside community in Missouri. Intrigue, suspense, backstabbing, betrayal, and a high-risk gamble with other people’s lives which goes horribly wrong. Sound familiar?
Sunday
My 13-year-old son groans when he learns I’m going to be a linesman for his football team’s cup match against local rivals in south-west London. We bicycle to the ground and I ask him – once again – to explain the offside rule to me. Every time I raise my flag during the game a chorus of protesting teenage voices shout at the referee. Did we shout at refs like that as teenagers? Much to my relief, the ref upholds my calls – but my son’s team still lose.
In the evening, my wife Miriam and I go to the Southbank Centre to hear Hillary Clinton being interviewed on stage by Jim Naughtie. Clinton has just published her account, What Happened, of the presidential election she lost to Donald Trump. She was relaxed and open – and angry, too. Everyone from Trump to Bernie Sanders, Vladimir Putin to Facebook, Republican donors to James Comey, got a mention in the roll call of people and events Hillary felt blocked her entry into the White House.
I have a small insight into the anguish of political defeat. Nothing like the epic scale of a US presidential election, of course, but crashing out of office after five years as deputy prime minister was still an abrupt collision with electoral reality. It takes some time to digest the reasons why things happen as they do – but, in the end, all you can do is stare defeat in the face, accept it, and move on.
There’s a limit to how much you can rake over the past. I wonder whether Hillary would have written the same book if she had given herself six more months to recover.
“How to Stop Brexit” by Nick Clegg is published by Bodley Head. He appears at the Cambridge Literary Festival in conversation with Helen Lewis on 24 November

How a core votes strategy and targeting fit together

If you want someone to blame for the fact that adopting a core votes strategy and targeting tightly to win seats are sometimes seen as opposites, then I’m a good person to pick. Sorry. And if you think you really like one and really dislike the other, hoping that arguing for one is a way to dis the other, then bank that apology ready for after you’ve read this piece.

The Federal Policy Committee Report – Ocober 2017

The Federal Policy Committee met again on 18th October 2017. This was a fairly heavy agenda this time and decisions were taken that will reach some distance into the future.
Association of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
Peter Price presented a report on the work of ALDE. The organisation has a total of 59 member parties throughout the EU and members of the Liberal Democrats have traditionally played a significant role within it. It is governed by a Bureau, a Council and a Congress, the latter meeting annually. Motions and papers can be submitted and there are usually quite a lot of them, often on what are regarded as difficult subjects. Brexit has featured in the past. We have previously submitted motions on the treatment of LGBT+ people in Azerbaijan and on the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration (along the lines of our own motion at conference in Bournemouth).

Is it eight or nine local council by-elections this week?

Eight or nine council by-elections this week?
It was scheduled to be nine, but one ward in South Oxfordshire produced only a Conservative candidate at close of nominations, resulting in their election unopposed. The other wards see seven Liberal Democrat candidates in total, a slip on the last few weeks but still up on some of the poor runs of the past.
Epping Forest DC, Lower Sheering – 19th October 2017

Con 220 [80.9; +11.0%]

LD Ingrid Black 52 [19.1; +19.1%]

Lab 0 [[0.0; -30.1%]]

Conservative hold

Turnout 15.6%

Percentage changes from 2015
.

Gravesham BC, Meopham North – 19th October 2017

Con 721 [64.0%; +2.9%]

LD John Death 192 [17.0%; +17.0%]

Lab 155 [13.8%; -1.8%]

UKIP 59 [5.2%; -18.2%]

Conservative hold

Turnout 31.9%

Percentage changes from 2015
.

City of Lincoln DC, Carholme – 19th October 2017

Lab 922 [63.4%; +6.3%]

Con 368 [25.3%; +5.2%]

Grn 83 [5.7%; -8.5%]

LD James Robert Brown 82 [5.6%; -2.9%]

Labour hold

Percentage changes from 2016
.

Wigan MB, Astley Moseley Common – 19th October 2017

Lab 773 [46.0%; -5.3%]

Con 604 [35.9%; +11.4%]

UKIP 185 [11.0%; -13.2%]

LD 73 Stuart Thomas [4.3%; +4.3%]

Grn 46 [2.7%; +2.7%]

Labour hold

Percentage changes from 2016
.

Nottingham UA, Bestwood – 19th October 2017

Lab 1280 [65.1%; +9.5%]

UKIP 301 [14.2%; -7.7%]

Con 297 [14.0%; -1.8%]

LD Christina Morgan-Danvers 57 [2.7%; +2.7%]

Grn 50 [2.4%; -4.3%]

BPE 30 [1.6%; +1.6%]

Labour hold

Turnout 16.3%

Percentage changes from 2015
.

Nottingham UA, Basford -19th October 2017

Lab 1409 [68.2%; +21.4%]

Con 408 [19.7%; -1.1%]

UKIP 119 [5.8%; -11.0%]

Grn 81 [3.9%; -8.8%]

LD Rebecca Procter 49 [2.4%; +2.4%]

Labour hold

Turnout 17.5%

Percentage changes from 2015

.
Nottingham UA, Bulwell Forest – 19th October 2017

Lab 1420 [54.5%; +8.2%]

Con 966 [37.1%; +17.3%]

UKIP 141 [5.3%; -14.7%]

Grn 52 [2.0%; -5.6%]

LD Callum William Southern 31 [1.2%; -3.1%]

Labour hold

Turnout 24.4%

Percentage changes from 2015
.

Hartlepool UA, Seaton – 19th October 2017

PHF 474 [31.6%; +3.2%]

Ind 425 [28.3%; +2.1%]

Lab 275 [18.3%; +3.8%]

Con 180 [12.0%; +6.0%]

UKIP 148 [9.9%; -13.5%]

Putting Hartlepool First gain from Independent

Turnout 21.4%

Percentage changes 2016

.

South Oxfordshire, Haseley Brook – 19th October 2017

The Brexit spell is lifting: MPs are finally standing against it

For too long, Brexit has cast a spell over our country which no one dared to break. It seemed as though forces beyond our control were remorselessly pulling our government, our economy, and our standing in the world towards a downward spiral. Members of Parliament appeared reluctant to talk about stopping Brexit, even as one by one the promises made by the Leave campaign were revealed to be pie in the sky.

Ed Davey: Rise in violent crime shows May failing to back Britain’s police

Violent crime has increased by 19% in the last year, figures published today have revealed.

Knife crime was up 26% year-on-year, while overall crimes increased by 13%.
Commenting on the reported rise in violent crime, Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson, said:
“People’s lives are under threat because Theresa May is failing to back Britain’s police.

“These increases in violent crime are frightening and it ought to be government’s first priority to protect the public. Yet with her police cuts, Theresa May has gone soft on crime and is letting the country down.

“Theresa May was the Home Secretary for six years: she ought to understand the needs of the police. Instead, she has left them out in the cold.”