And they’re off!

The worst kept secret in politics was finally announced as we will get the chance to vote in a general election on May 6th. There wasn’t much time left for it to be honest – June was the last month and the Queen was never likely to stop Gordon Brown from dissolving parliament. But where are we now? Will there be battleground areas of difference between the parties?

One of the main areas will be the economy. All parties concede cuts are needed, but the extent and speed is up for debate with Labour wanting to delay until next year and the Tories wanting to do it immediately. Where to raise the necessary tax revenue is also an area of contention with the debate between increasing NI contributions or to increase VAT.

Can Labour claim that they are the government with the most experience and has saved the economy thanks to (Flash) Gordon? Or can the Tories convince us that it was Labour’s fault in the first place? 

Other areas such as the NHS (and its management), crime and the environment will force voters to choose. A very worthwhile website for a succinct comparison is on the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8515961.stm#subject=health&col1=conservative&col2=labour&col3=libdem

A key and feasible outcome of this election would be a hung-parliament. Some of the most recent polls have suggested this is on the cards leaving the Liberal Democrats as the ‘kingmakers’ of parliament. Can a hung-parliament be good for the UK or will it lead to indecision and infighting leaving no policies being passed?

Labour/Andrew Adonis feel a hung parliament and option and have pleaded with Lib Dem voters in marginal Lib-Lab constituencies to ‘see the bigger picture’ and vote Labour.

A first for a UK election will be the live television debates for the three main party leaders. As can be found in the US, this will lead to the leaders not wanting to make a mistake rather than set out any clearer the policies or promises they will adopt. This is not to say the debates will be useless – it will flag up any insecurities the nation has in any of the leaders. But the old adage of ‘we should vote for policies, not people’ will not be helped by these debates.

All in all this general election will be the most interesting and exciting since 1997 when Labour came into office on a landslide. With the most important topic being the economy, though, the most important date in this election campaign will be April 23rd, the day the first quarter economic growth forecast is announced. A high growth statistic could show how Darling and Brown were right; a low statistic could be the final nail in Labour’s coffin.

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