nick clegg, david cameron, gordon brown
Associated Press
Left to right: Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative Party leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrats Party leader Nick Clegg.

The UK Elections: Parties and Leaders

April 26, 2010 06:00 PM
by James Sullivan
The 2010 U.K. elections are receiving a lot of attention after an unexpectedly strong showing in the polls by perennial third party the Liberal Democrats.

The 2010 General Election

On May 6, 45 million Britons will have the opportunity to vote for a new Member of Parliament to represent their area. The party with the most elected members will then form a new government. Generally, the leader of the winning party—the party that holds more than 50 percent of seats in the House of Commons—will serve as prime minister. Though as the BBC notes, if no party wins enough seats to form an outright majority government—a situation referred to as a hung Parliament—“it is possible that two other parties could decide to work together in a coalition if they can rely on more than half the votes of MPs.”

The election is forecast to be the closest since 1992, and many observers see a good chance the elections could result in a hung Parliament.

The BBC offers a Q&A to inform readers about the issues of the 2010 general election, and the Guardian explains how a hung Parliament could affect the makeup of the government.

Find resources for learning more about the British parties and party leaders below.

Labour Party, Gordon Brown

Traditionally characterized as left-wing, the Labour Party, headed by current prime minister Gordon Brown, has been one of the main players in U.K. politics since World War II. The party has been in power since 1997 when Tony Blair became prime minister. He served for three consecutive terms before standing down.

“The Labour Party was born out of the trade union movement in 1900 with the aim of giving a political voice to the working classes.”

Conservative Party, David Cameron

According to the BBC, “the Conservative Party can claim to be the oldest political party in Europe.” The party was originally called the Tories, and during the 17th century supported the Crown, believing its power to be a check on that of Parliament.

The party has reinvented itself in recent years, with party head David Cameron putting a fresh, “greener, friendlier” face on the Conservatives. “He reached out to young and female voters, and the party's poll ratings began to rise—with them consistently above Labour for the first time in more than a decade.”

Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg

This centrist third party, led by Nick Clegg, who became a household name after winning a televised three-party debate earlier in the month, has won about 20 percent of the popular vote in general elections since the mid 1970s.

A surge in the polls following the April 15 debate has put the Liberal Democrats in a position to make an impact on May 6.

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