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Lib-Cons deal spurs Facebook fury and flash mobs

By Emma Thelwell

Updated on 10 May 2010

As all eyes remain fixed on Whitehall for an end to the stalemate of a hung parliament, grassroots resistance to a Liberal Democrat deal with the Conservatives rises up.

Lib-Cons deal spurs facebook fury (screengrab pictured) and flash mobs in Trafalgar Square

Electoral reform is the price of Nick Clegg's allegiance - and for many more it seems to be the price of support for Mr Clegg himself.

Taking the debate beyond the social media stages of Facebook and Twitter, protesters have also appealed directly to their local Lib Dem MPs, confronting them with emails, personal messages on social media sites and invitations to join protest groups.

Rhiannon Rose, from Manchester, pleaded with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg: "Please don't CON-DEM us!" on the Facebook page "We dont want the Liberal Democrats to make a deal with the Conservatives".

Ms Rose, 26, said she and her friend Laura Milne were advised by the Lib Dems to set up a Facebook page in protest.

"We're single parents so we can't go out and protest," she told Channel 4 News.

In the wake of the election result, Ms Rose set up a Facebook page which gathered more than 42,000 members over the weekend protesting a Liberal Democrat deal with the Conservatives.

However, the page was then closed, throwing bloggers and conspiracy theorists into online convulsions.

"A lot of people were really shocked and angry over the closure," said Ms Rose, who is a mature student and has never previously organised a protest group online.

In a statement to Channel 4 News, Facebook denied accusations it had shut down the site, saying a bug was to blame.

"Over the last few days, a bug has caused a small number of groups and pages to be deactivated from the site in error. Once reported to us, the groups in question were restored and our engineers are working to ensure that this issue is fully resolved," it said.

Ms Rose and fellow students Sam Newman, Helen Holmes and James Turner hastily erected a replacment and appealed to former members to rejoin. Another group also rushed to replace the original - leaving two seperate groups now running.  

Ms Rose's new group has gathered almost 800 members, while the secondary one has collected more than 4,000.

"We had over 42,000 people within 36 hours," Ms Rose laments on the page. "We are making every possible step to find out what the hell happened."

She said the group received no warning from Facebook over its closure, and has not responded to her queries over it.

Other Facebook groups, such as the one that propelled Rage Against the Machine to number one in the charts over Christmas, had almost a million members, she pointed out - dismissing rumours that hers was shut down due to its size.

A poll run by UK Democracy on Facebook found that almost 50 per cent of the 500,000 that voted favoured a Lib Lab deal.

Meanwhile, the tweeting Cleggmanics from the school of #iagreewithnick on Twitter, seem to have scarpered as the uncertainty of a hung parliament weighs heavy, with many tweeters turning on Mr Clegg.

Tweeter @snookcocker said Mr Clegg was clinging "to his 15 minutes of fame", while @sibo_ said he was "getting a bit sick of nick clegg now".

The swing in public feeling echoes the previous U-turn on Mr Clegg's popularity after the second televised leaders' debate - after which Mr Clegg joked that he had gone from "Churchill to Hitler in a week".

Others branded his move a "betrayal" and a "sell out" - with one complaining that "it does look like Nick Clegg is going to sell out to the Conservatives without true electoral reform."

The wave of opinion circling a possible deal drove the term Lib-Con to trend on Twitter yesterday.

Ms Rose's Facebook page is also urging members to call the Lib Dem headquarters in London to voice their concerns over a possible deal.

"You will probably have to leave a voicemail, but they 'promise' to get back to you," says the page.

On Saturday, there were 62 per cent more tweets about 'Proportional Representation' compared to tweets with first-past-the-post 'FPTP', according to Tweetminster. The rush of tweeting around the subject propelled the two terms towards to trend status.

The hashtag #dontdoitnick also took hold as backlash against a Lib-Cons deal rose. Meanwhile, the furore surrounding Mr Clegg went global as his party's "disappointing" election results crept in on Friday - with "Clegg" trending worldwide.

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