Stefan Lofven, right, at this afternoon's press conference with his coalition partner. Photo: Getty.
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Sweden: An anti-immigration party has brought down the centre-left government

Could Labour also fail to pass a budget next year, and trigger a second election?

For more on elections and the UK next election, explore May2015.com.

A right-wing faction has sided with the main centre-right party and deposed a centre-left government. Sound prophetic?

The scenario that could beset the UK next year has just happened in Sweden, less than three months after their most recent elections.

The Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, leads Sweden’s biggest party, the Social Democrats, and governs in a minority coalition with Green Party, their fourth largest. They have failed to pass a budget after being held hostage by the Swedish Democrats, who demanded restrictions on immigration before allowing Lofven’s measures to pass.

The SDP-Green (or Red-Green) bloc hold 138 seats – 40 per cent of the chamber and well short of the 50 per cent they need. No party has won an outright majority since 1968, but coalitions have long proven effective: this is the first snap election since 1958.

The Swedish Democrats are the chamber’s third largest party, holding 14 per cent of its seats. As Lofven put in his press conference, they are effectively the kingmaker. They can currently choose between the Red-Green bloc and the centre-bloc of four parties – the Moderate, Center, Liberal People’s and Christian Democratic parties – who collectively hold 141 seats.

Lofven is gambling that voters don’t want the right-wing party to be in so powerful a position. He is trying to paint the centre-alliance bloc as having the same beliefs as the Swedish Democrats in the hopes of winning over the centrist parts of the centre-right.

As the Guardian Datablog recently detailed, Sweden admits far more asylum seekers per capita than any other country in the world. Immigration is a still only a pressing issue for a minority, but that minority is in control.

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The new election will take place on 22 March, just over six weeks before the UK’s general election on 7 May.

The parallels with the UK are striking. As George Eaton detailed in September, Lofven came to power by increasing the SDP’s vote share by just 1 per cent – to 31 per cent – at a time when the Moderates’ share collapsed from 30 to 23 per cent. Disaffected voters turned to the Swedish Democrats, as some Labour voters increasingly seem to be doing now.

You can break down the extent to which Labour voters have been swayed by Ukip in the past five years using our new data portal: 'The Drilldown', which lets you separate polls into demographic groups, compare different pollsters and track recurring questions. For more on how and whether the UK could face two elections next year – which hasn't happened since 1974 – click through for our recent feature.

Explore May2015.com.

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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