Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002


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.


  1. Thats interesting, the lib dems seem to be winning the battle for context sensitive advertising (on this page at this precise moment anyway).
    Also strange, i’ve always considered them strictly centre. Hell, i guess that just shows how infrequently their policies manage to permeate my membranes.

  2. I’ve voted in one election already, just making the cut last time. I have a firm belief that Labour will win for a third term in office.
    They can all make promises, but most of these will be broken. No one can predict what’s going to happen, that’s the problem.

  3. I voted last time, but being in Belfast, it’s all a bit (_cough_ pointless _cough_) different. Sadly, we’ve a long way to go before people thinking for themselves and and stop voting how their grandparents did.
    For those unfamiliar: Northern Ireland, while a part of the UK, has a totally different political landscape to the rest of the country, mostly due to the Troubles and all its baggage.
    Politics and religion are heavily intertwined here and its common for people to vote along traditional religious divides, rather than policy-based political ones. We have 5 large parties (ordered from right-wing to left-wing):
    * Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) strong-right
    * Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) right
    * Alliance Party (AP) center
    * Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) left
    * Sinn Fein (SF) strong-left
    The mainland parties (at least Labour and Conservative) do exist here, but are almost completely wiped out in the polls by the local parties.

  4. I think all of the parties’ positions on the scale are open to debate. But I would say that based on their current policies the LibDems are to the left of Labour. Calling them left-wing is probably a little extreme though; they’re more centre-left, with the Tories… sorry… Conservatives, centre-right. And Labour in the middle, unable to make its mind up.
    I reckon Labour will get another win, but that doesn’t mean to say that I’m necessarily going to vote for them.

  5. If we’re talking about how UK elections are anything other than straight forward, in my local ward of “Sheffield Hallam”, traditionally Labour are no hopers so every year if you are a Labour supportor (as i am for all their sins) you have to vote tactically. This means that for the last 2 elections, even though i don’t support the LibDems I have had to vote for them, simply to take a vote away from the tory seat.
    In some ways it’s quite a flawed system.

  6. Junap: My grandad voted Monster Raving Looney Party in protest once – some grandparents are ok to copy.
    There was a strong presence from Respect at the anti-war march in London, whilst such a new party has no chance – they might not do too badly.
    I’m tempted to vote Green if I do decide to vote.

  7. I think its safe to call the LDs left wing in the context of modern British politics. In the same way that, say, Democrat government spending plans can be left wing the US. But ravingly super-tory over here.
    The choices are limited here. Voting for the Conservatives is dubious. I do not trust them on law & order, immigration, public services, Europe etc etc. About all I like is defence and meh on economy.
    Labour ive never liked. I distrust on ID cards, judicial reform.
    Lid Dems I distrust on most things. Especially the economy.
    Sigh. I really dont like Labour. But id probably vote for them.

  8. You are making me feel old now, I voted 3 general elections ago (1992). I keep voting for the Lib Dems, (foolish I know), I’ve yet to vote for a winning MP but I’ve managed to vote for a winning MEP & a Councillor so I suppose I should count my blessings :-). If you refer to the Political Compass that Neil mentioned a couple of months ago (Neil feel free to edit that, I don’t want to be told off again…) you can see that the Lib Dems are central, it’s just that Labour have charged to the right of them. Again being old I can remember when Michael Foot & before him James Callaghan where in charge of the Labour Party back when socialist wasn’t a dirty word. I would say something like ahh the good old days only they weren’t…

  9. I live in a strongly Labour area, which means voting against them means nothing most of the time….having said that, this is my first general election as a voter and I realise that depsite the futility, if I don’t vote I can’t complain.
    Neil, out of interest, are you voting in Bradford?

  10. Haha, just did the political compass thingy and my dot was almost exactly where nelson mandela’s is. Or more importantly closer to “Greens” than any other party. But ugh, i can’t vote green, i just can’t 🙁
    Economic Left/Right: -4.50
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.49

  11. Muppetette: Probably. I sent off a form to register to vote in Bradford, but if that doesn’t work out I still have a postal vote in York to use. I’m voting here because there’s a greater chance of the BNP standing in Bradford West, and I’m quite keen on using my vote against them. They had a candidate here in 1997 who polled 1.84%, and although no-one stood in 2001 I’ve heard that there could be one this year.
    Right now, however, only Labour, the Conservative and the Green Party have confirmed candidates here. Given the choice of those I’d probably vote Green but I’d prefer a LibDem candidate, even though the Greens beat the LibDems last time around.

  12. Can you vote in two constituencies in the general election then?

  13. Economic Left/Right: -7.63
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.08
    yikes, I knew I was a lefty, but this makes me sound like I hug every tree on the walk to work each morning 🙂
    _Junap: My grandad voted Monster Raving Looney Party in protest once – some grandparents are ok to copy._
    heh, I’d tempted to do the same! I wish there was a “none of the above” option on polling cards. I’d say it’d prompt many disillusioned people to vote, and give a more realistic balance to the parties’ supposed “mandate from the masses”

  14. I’ve always wondered: in English political discussions, are there people criticising the existence of the House of Lords? I mean, recognising to Great Britain the long tradition of liberalism (I am a proud reader of John Stuart Mill), wouldn’t it be time to get rid of a parliamentary chamber composed only by people who are not democratically elected, but who are there just on a hereditary basis?

  15. I’ve always wondered the same thing Raffa, surely the people the British public choose should be the people who have the final say.
    Tony has quite often motioned that he would like to see the lords reformed, but somehow he always seems to give up. Makes you wonder if there is something happening behind the scenes that we mere mortals aren’t allowed to know about.

  16. Muppetette: I have two votes, but I can only use one, so I can vote in either York or Bradford but not both.
    Raffa: Quite a few people criticise the Lords, yes, especially those on the left as the Lords tends to have more right-wingers in it. I personally have a love-hate relationship with them – on the one hand, it’s full of largely unelected rightwingers who are somewhat out of touch with reality, but on the other hand they have helped to water down some rather harsh pieces of legislation recently (such as Top-Up fees and the new terror laws) which is probably a good thing.
    As MRKisThatKid says there have been some attempts by the Blair administration to reform the Lords and some progress was made with removing hereditary peers (Lords who inherited their titles from parents rather then being elected) which has made the house a bit more transparent, but an all-out major reform hasn’t happened. It’s pretty unlikely too, unfortunately.

  17. I guess The House of Lords is a form of safety net. Commons politicians have very short time spans in government, and often take a quick-fix, populist approach, rather than a long-term view, when pushing through their legislation. What seems ok today could be disastrous in a few years’ time.
    The Lords can take a more measured view and force a review of potentially bad laws (terror laws, id cards, etc.). This is epsecially relevant when you have a government with such a big majority that they can push through bills even when all the opposition parties, and even some of their own backbenchers oppose it. Having said that, the hereditary peers are completely contrary to the idea of one person, one vote, so I imagine reform would be necessary.

  18. Economic Left/Right: -2.63
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.05
    Well, during the test I actually felt some of the questions were worded extremely ambiguously(or rather, in a way that made me feel I was being forced down a particular route)and I think my score reflects this. For example there were several statements I had to disagree with because they were just wrong when taken literally, although I may have agreed with the general principle.
    Had this ambiguity not existed I would have expected to ‘score’ more like +2 on Economy, although I think the Social score was probably about right. Interestingly this ‘correct’ score would have left me completely on my own in that quartile of the graph, with no ‘celebrities’ for company!

  19. it’s ‘elegible’, not ‘elegable’.

  20. sorry, not ‘eligable’.