The street demonstrations that had led to the downfall of the Tunisian government spread eastwards to Egypt, Jordan and Yemen. The most significant protests were seen in Egypt where large crowds demanded reform from President Mubarak's government for four consecutive days. Mubarak responded by dismissing all his ministers and appointing a new government.

In Ireland the prime minister Brian Cowen resigned as leader of his party but retained his ministerial role in order to push through legislation connected with the bail-out of the Irish economy in December. An election is expected in late February.

In Britain, Labour's shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer resigned for personal reasons and was replaced by Ed Balls whose shadow role at the Home Office was filled by his wife Yvette Cooper.

President Obama's State of the Union speech concentrated on the need to reinvigorate America's innovative industrial and scientific qualities by investment in education, infrastructure and imagination. He drew comparisons with America's shock at the Soviet Union's “sputnik” in 1957 which led to the successful challenge to be first on the moon.