So, at last, Tony Blair has called a General Election, and on May 5th, the British people (or at least those eligable to vote who bother to turn up) will be able to elect a new government representitive.
This will be the first general election where I’m eligable to vote, and naturally I’ll be making use of it. What I will promise is to keep political discussions on here to a minimum over the next month, as if you’re like me you’re already bored of the election even though it was only called today.
For the considerable number of you who are not British, here’s an a basic overview of what this is all about. Every 4-5 years, we have a general election, where you can elect a candidate to become a representitive (Member of Parliament, or MP) for you local area in the House of Commons in London. Most candidates are part of a political party, and generally the political party with the highest number of MPs becomes the government with the leader of that party becoming the Prime Minister.
Unlike in the US where there are only 2 main parties, in the UK, we have 3:
- Labour, led by Tony Blair, has been in power since 1997. It is traditionally a left-wing party but has been mostly central on its policies of late, with both left- and right-wing tendencies. Current opinion polls put them in first place, winning Blair a historic third term as Prime Minister.
- The Conservatives are the second-placed party behind Labour, and spent 18 years in power up until 1997. Currently lead by Michael Howard who was the Home Secretary until Labour took over.
- In third place as things stand at the moment are the Liberal Democrats who have around 20-25% of the vote. They are a left-wing party which has not been in power before, and are lead by Charles Kennedy. They were very vocal against the war in Iraq two years ago and the only major party opposing it.
As well as independent candidates who have no party affiliates, there are other parties who are likely to be fielding candidates in the election:
- The Green Party are a left-wing party with policies generally favouring the environment.
- The UK Independence Party (UKIP) are right-wing party who have enjoyed greater success of late. They are in favour of the UK pulling out of the European Union and tighter controls on immigration.
- The British National Party are a far-right party led by Nick Griffin, with similar policies to UKIP but far more extreme. Many people see them as fascists but they do have a number of elected councillors in the north of England.
- The Respect Coalition are a left-wing party lead by George Galloway, a former Labour MP, with backing from the Socialist Worker Party and the Muslim Council of Britain. They are strongly anti-war.
- Veritas is a newly-established right-wing party lead by former TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk. They too are in favour of immigration controls.
There’s also a few even smaller fringe parties, like The Monster Raving Loony Party.
The election results will be announced on the evening of Thursday May 5th, with the final result known in the early hours of Friday 6th May.