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Thread: The British General Election

  1. #1

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    The British General Election

    This thread may or not be of limited interest to many of you here, but I thought I’d give you a quick resume of political events on this side of the pond.

    The Prime Minister today did the official business and confirmed what we’d all thought here for a long time, that the UK general election will be on May 5th. There are various processes which the Prime Minister has to go through to name the date, which starts with visiting the Queen and asking her to formally allow the dissolution of Parliament. Parliament will now ‘dissolve’ next Monday, with campaigning due to start the same day (although of course in reality they’ve all been campaigning for a few months now).

    There are three main parties here; Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives are the right wing party under the leadership of Michael Howard, Labour are traditionally the left wing party and are in power at present with Tony Blair, and the Liberal Democrats are the centrist party (Although it could be argued that Labour have moved into the centre and that the Liberal Democrats are more left wing than Labour). Then there are also the various smaller parties, including the nationalist parties of Plaid Cymru (Wales) and the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) who are essentially anti-Europe.

    Polls at the moment indicate Labour in the lead, although the gap between them and the Conservatives seems to be narrowing.

    Labour have been damaged by the Iraq war, which a majority of the country was not in favour of. Its strong point is the economy, which has been growing steadily for the last few years. Money has been plowed into other key vote winners, education and health, although the National Health Service eats money and there has been lots of controversy over hygiene in hospitals. Tony Blair is also seen as electable; although a fair few people dislike him, he does have charisma and is generally seen as a good ambassador for the country. Labour’s heartlands are the Midlands, northern England, Scotland and parts of Wales.

    The Conservatives (or Tories) have been in disarray for a number of years but appear to be mainly pulling together for the election. Michael Howard is not particularly inspirational or charismatic but appears to be uniting his party which was until recently fairly disparate and covers a fairly wide political spectrum (from close to the centre to fairly strong right wing). His policies so far have been based on fear essentially, and he has gone for headline grabbing policies which appeal to peoples base instincts concerning Asylum, Immigration and Crime. In respect of planning the Tories are jumping on the NIMBY bandwagon and have promised to revise required housing figures. The Tories traditional strong areas are the South East, East Anglia and parts of the southern Midlands of England.

    The Liberal Democrats have a fairly strong leader in Charles Kennedy, but are likely to be the ‘third’ party again. Their policies can be described generally as socially democratic, and they are the only party who admits that they intend to raise taxes in order to fund public services. Traditional strong areas of the Lib Dems are the 'celtic fringe' (south west England, western Wales and western Scotland).

    Of the fringe parties, as always the SNP and Plaid Cymru are expected to do well in their respective countries. UKIP are becoming stronger and are a threat to Tories in some areas. They may not win any seats but may well split the Tory vote in some areas, allowing the Lib Dems in.

    I'd be interested in any comments or views, or indeed how much, if any, media coverage of the UK General Election is evident in your respective countries.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    I've only seen minor coverage...at most an acknowledgement. I'm ashamed to say that the American media only cares about American business. It's a partial reason of why we (in general) are so clueless when it comes to international issues.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by noj
    Then there are also the various smaller parties, including the nationalist parties of Plaid Cymru (Wales) and the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) who are essentially anti-Europe.
    Hmmm... Am I reading that right? I was aware that the UKIP were anti-admitting-that-we-are-actually-part-of-Europe (no prizes for guessing my views!) but I had always thought that the Plaid Cymru and the SNP were more pro-Europe, in that Scotland and Wales tend to see themselves as being more involved in Europe. Saying they see themselves as European would be a bit strong (and probably wrong) but Wales and Scotland seem to be more open(?) or aware of the shared history with the rest Europe.

    And don't forget the BNP, who seem to be getting more and more interest. Although how they managed to persude anybody that they're nice and fluffy, I'll never know.

    And another JM tangent: Do you reckon that chavs vote BNP, Tory or UKIP?
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    ^Tories are a buch of limp-wristed liberals to them. My bet is BNP, but the ones who finished primary school are more sophisticated, so they vote UKIP.

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    Quote Originally posted by Journeymouse
    Hmmm... Am I reading that right? I was aware that the UKIP were anti-admitting-that-we-are-actually-part-of-Europe (no prizes for guessing my views!) but I had always thought that the Plaid Cymru and the SNP were more pro-Europe, in that Scotland and Wales tend to see themselves as being more involved in Europe. Saying they see themselves as European would be a bit strong (and probably wrong) but Wales and Scotland seem to be more open(?) or aware of the shared history with the rest Europe.

    And don't forget the BNP, who seem to be getting more and more interest. Although how they managed to persude anybody that they're nice and fluffy, I'll never know.

    And another JM tangent: Do you reckon that chavs vote BNP, Tory or UKIP?
    Sorry JM, I meant to put that UKIP are the anti-Europeans, I didn't mean to insinuate that Plaid Cymru and the SNP are anti-European. I'd agree with your views on their views on Europe!

    The BNP are getting more interest, as you say, espcially with the Tory tactic of making immigration a main election topic. Don't think they'll get a seat though, even though they'll get some votes in their 'strong' areas (mainly the Yorkshire and Lancashire old mill towns).

    I don't think Chavs vote generally, or know how to. Its all an effing waste of time innit?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by noj
    Sorry JMI don't think Chavs vote generally, or know how to. Its all an effing waste of time innit?
    Perhaps Labour can get Dizee Rascal on the ticket to bring out the Chav vote.


    Strange thing about British vs. US politics, other than the fact that your elections seem to be rather substantive, and not just about who loves Jesus the most, is that Americans seem to really like Tony Blair. Which I find odd because, if he were American and had the same political beliefs he currently has, there would be no chance in the world he could win in a national election… too “liberal” you know.

  7. #7
    Not only do I 'beleive' in Europe, I want proportional representation. Despite the look of absolute terror (think rabbit trapped in headlights) it brings to the face of nearly everyone I know. It's fairer, it seems to work, and it means I don't have to put up with the Tories and Labour disagreeing simply because they're "the opposition party". Y'know, sometimes it's ok to admit the other party have a good idea <rolls eyes>.
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    I'd agrre with your views on proportional representation JM. At least in that way my vote would mean something. Everywhere I've ever lived as been a very strong seat for one party of the other.

    It would also mean a good split in Parliament, meaning that they'd have to work together and we wouldn't have an "elective dictatorship" as we have had in the last four years (and as we had under most of the Thatcher years)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian psylo's avatar
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    Having studied British politics for about 5 years now, I did a double take when I saw this thread on here. The last I saw (either the Times or some US news) was that support for Labour has been falling and the gap that Blair now enjoys in the Commons could be smaller than the last election. Is that still true?

    I'm going to have to get back to reading the news and get my head out of the books a bit

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Boru's avatar
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    Proportional representation seems to scare the bejaysus out of the British parliamentary system, because it would inevitably remove the current 2 sided system (sorry but the lib dems dont appear to be in the game). Ireland has had propotional representation since 1922, Italy has had it since the second world war (i think) and both countries have had "rainbow" or coalition governments for the last 30 or so years. It forces various parties who feel they have been given a mandate to co-operate on different issues in order to operate as a government. It can also ensure that one large party does not dominate matters. The only downside i can see to proportional representation seems to be that the smaller parties (and this sometimes means the lunatic fringe) get more votes, as people feel sorry for them and give them their 4th, 5th choice etc. This has led to Sinn Fein (Irelands particular lunatic fringe) getting substantial levels of support in Ireland. The same could happen for the BNP.

    As an aside, I hope Blair bags it, as the tories are still a pack of buffoons.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    To be honest I don't have much problem with two parties. It seems like the weirdoes (like the BNP) tend to get suppressed more, and the major parties still "suck up" good causes from the fringes pretty regularly.

    If there's a problem in Britain, is that it tends to be more of a "one party" system, where that one party tends to get deposed every decade or so. I think that what causes that is insufficient separation of powers and too much centralization. In America, it's unusual to have both houses of the congress, the president, and the supreme court all controlled by the same party. And although that's the case right now, it won't last long. But because there are so many layers of government here, there is still plenty of rule by the "opposition" party. The Democrats run practically everything here in Illinois, for instance.

    I think Labor's attempts to put more decisions in the hands of local politicians (for example, by reinstituting the office of Mayor of London) are good steps in that direction.

    In general, I don't like federalism. Generally federalism happens because of external pressures, and it's not a good thing for the people living under it. The United States formed because the colonies knew they couldn't repel an attack by Britain alone (and they were wise to federalize, as exemplified by 1812). But in general, the massive federation hasn't been a good thing for Americans. Government is often distant and ineffectual. All social services become administrative nightmares that have to navigate a huge quiltwork of various levels of agencies. As more things (like transportation funding) have been federalized, people at the local level lose control of their own cities and environments.

    The EU is forming not because of external military pressure, but external economic pressure. They feel they have to make one big "open market" like there is in America to compete with the likes of the USA and China. But would they otherwise be federalizing? They're giving up a whole bunch of self determination for squishy promises. And I don't buy the idea that it will just be an "economic trade agreement" either. The purpose of the US Federal Government (as stated by the constitution) is to provide for the "common defense" and to regulate "interstate commerce." But after 250 years of federation, that's changed quite a bit. In 250 years, the EU won't be any different than the USA, except that instead of having 260 million citizens, it'll have 400 million citizens.

  12. #12
    Well, speaking as a young'un who doesn't pay much attention to the talk, in the UK, the leading party gets in because we vote for their leader. Only in a few places are we actually voting for the person standing in the constituency. So what it currently comes down to (being effectively a two party system and Labour having replaced the Liberal/Whig vote over a hundred years ago now) is that Tony Blair is still more 'desirable' than Michael Howard, who probably daren't show his face in certain parts of Wales without being risking being hung as a traitor. However, Blair has a very able Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who may make it all worth while. And I would be very interested in seeing what kind of prime minister Brown would make, which he could be if there's a change of leadership relatively soon.

    I tend to vote Liberal or Green depending on how effective my vote is likely to be, but I have to admit that Charles Kennedy (the Liberal leader), much as I like him, is not prime minister material. That said, Warwick/Leamington Spa is a Liberal 'stronghold' so a Liberal vote this year from me is probably a safe bet.
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    The one danger in this country, is IMO when you get an "elective dictatorship". We've had one recently and we had one under Thatcher. Effectively it means that the ruling party has such a majority that they can push through virtually any law they like as any dissenting voices in their own party will be drowned out by the MPs towing the party line and hoping to crawl up the ladder of power.

    With this election appearing to be closer than many others, it may be that the gap is closed, and that can only be a good thing. I suspect I'll be voting Lib Dem, mainly because I agree with their policies, and also because in my seat of the Derbyshire Dales they are the only alternative to the Tories.

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    Was driving to work this morning when I was glad to see that many of the electoral placards I drive past have been defaced. I consider this a healthy practice, as it is a lot healthier to graffitti a temportary placard rather than a wall.

    I drive past one Labour one, which now has the one word 'Bliar' scrawled across Tony's face. Quite clever, but also rather old.

    The two Tory (Conservative) ones (sited on farmland - theres a surprise ) have also been defaced. One which has the standard 'Vote Conservative' banner on it has had added to it 'for Xenophobia' at the bottom, and the other one (my favourite) has the slogan on it "How would you feel if your daughter had been attacked by someone on early release?"[from prison]. The comment "I'd still feel you were Tory scum" has been added, which is rather good I think.

    Anyway, in the real thing, the politicains are still marching across the country, kissing babies and the like, and the polls are still showing a Labour victory.

    There has been a major manufacturing hit here lately as MG Rover (a car firm) went bust over the weekend, losing some 7,000 jobs directly and probably 20,000 jobs indirectly, but so far it doesn't seem to have affected the polls much.

  15. #15
    I have had about 8 flyers from Labour. And 3 knocks on the door, from them, too. From very pleasant, young, middle class people who looked slightly shocked when I said, "You better go knock on someone else's door, I'm voting Lib Dem."

    I even said it politely and in my best public voice, too!

    --- edit ---
    Forgot to mention that no other party seems to be chasing my vote.
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  16. #16
    Cyburbian psylo's avatar
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    I was watching the manifesto launchings and some political ads on CSPAN last night, and the Lib Dem platform seemed to be more focused on the younger vote with the free tuiton plan. Sometimes I wish we had 3 strong parties in the US just to keep things interesting and have the push for ideas out into public. Last poll I saw (its been awhile) had Labour pulling ahead with a greater margin, and Lib Dem's also gaining strength.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Lib Dems are not strong. They hardly have any seats. The Greens have even managed to get a few seats in Congress from time to time.

    The difference between the British and American systems that allows the third parties to be slightly more powerful in the British system is that it's more possible to form coalition governments. Therefore, voting Lib Dem doesn't necessarily spoil the vote for Labour. But only if the Lib Dem already has a good chance of winning in your district.

    In America, splitting a vote between two parties in a district will spoil both parties’ chances of getting their candidate elected. The same is true in Britain. But in America, it would be much more difficult for two parties, having been elected to Congress, to put together a coalition that will hold together for longer than a vote or two. So even if a third party candidate has a good chance of winning in your district, putting him in Congress usually means ending up with lame-duck representation.

    OTOH, because American politics is so much more about individuals than about parties, it’s much easier to be a maverick in American politics. The Whips are far less powerful here than they are in the British Parliament. In fact, in Britain, they have what’s called a “three-line whip,” which means that anyone who does not vote with the party on a three-line whip issue is immediately expelled from the party. Because people vote for parties in Britain, not for individuals, being expelled from one’s party often means the end of one’s political career.
    Last edited by jordanb; 18 Apr 2005 at 12:36 PM.

  18. #18
    I beg to agree and to differ And if anyone can correct me, please do so.

    Lib Dems are not strong. They don't get that many seats, but they are the next major party after the Tories and Labour. The Greens do tend to get a few seats. As do various independent candidates, and small parties such as the BNP, the Raving Monster Loony Party, etc.

    These seats are for the House of Commons, in Parliament (or in Wales, the Assembly). There are no coalitions. There are occasionally mergers of parties (i.e. the Liberals and the Democrats became the Lib-Dems). A member of parliament can agree or disagree to changes in legislation. The party that wins an election is usually refered to as the Government. The second choice party is the Opposition. The true power is the Cabinet - a select number of ministers from the Government chosen by the Prime Minister, their leader. The Cabinet propose the majority, if not all, policy. The Opposition disagree on principle and sit on the other side of the hall from the Government. Due to tradition, the sides are exactly two sword lengths apart - which shows the mentality. Members from other parties and factions must sit where they can, which tends to mean that they have to choose to align themselves with one side or the other. However, these alliances have no true basis, are down to the individual (unless there are some major manouverings) and merely means that the Government (and the Opposition) have to schmooze more often to be sure of getting the legislation through (or not) if there are enough seats given to the factions.

    And thanks to good old Blair and his reforms, the House of Lords (allegedly our higher House) is in pretty much the same situation, without the public vote.

    We do indentify with parties more than individuals over here, and to switch is effectively the end of most politicians' careers unless they are very very gifted and lucky.
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  19. #19

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    Had my first visit from a candidate yesterday, as the Tories came knocking. Unfortunately I was in middle of my tea (spaghetti bolognaise - far too European for my Conservative friend ) so I didn't have the opportunity to have a long chat with him, although I did let him know that he couldn't rely on my vote. He had a Barbour [Green outdoorsy] jacket on and came in a Range Rover - fantastic! I am now waiting for the Labour candidate to turn up in a bus with a donkey jacket on to complete the stereotypes (although I suspect that is a little old hat for 'new' Labour).

    I don't think either the Greens, the BNP or the Moster Raving Looney Party (unfortunately) have even had a seat in the Commons. Lib Dems had 52 seats last time out, which isn't that many, but is still significant (out of a total of 659).

  20. #20
    I'll take the barbour jacket and the range rover (which I would run on bio-diesel - provided I could also have his farm to produce it please)

    It's statements like that which confuse the canvassers. They can't decide whether I'm a Conservative with too much of a conscience to vote for them, or an out-right socialist with right wing tendencies.
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  21. #21

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    An article from last weeks 'Planning' magazine concerning the three main parties stance on planning matters. Provides quite a good summary.

    Manifestos pitch for votes in election build-up
    Planning - 22 April 2005

    As the battle heats up on the road to the 5 May elections, last week's party manifestos illustrate how the main contenders think that the country should be governed up to 2010.

    While tax, spending and the economy dominate the headlines, party policies on planning, housing, transport and the environment will have a huge impact on the changing face of the UK. Labour's 112-page paperback-style manifesto lays out detailed plans for a potential third term.

    The party would continue the growth planned in the South East and press ahead with action to renew collapsed housing markets in the north and the Midlands. It also vows to help two million more people become homeowners by the end of its third term.

    Labour claims that plans to use surplus public land to build cheaper homes could help more than 15,000 first-time buyers, an attractive proposition for those who are struggling to keep up with house price inflation in London and the South East. The party would offer up to 300,000 council and housing association tenants the chance to buy a share of the equity of their home under the Homebuy scheme.

    Increasing the supply and quality of social housing is central to Labour's belief in mixed sustainable communities. An additional 10,000 social homes would be built each year up to 2008, it promises.

    The communities plan remains under scrutiny, with many observers claiming that the infrastructure needed to support growth is being overlooked.

    Questions are also being asked about the sustainability of Labour's initiatives.

    Pledges on transport may go some way to reassuring voters. Investment will continue to increase, with more than £180 billion of public money committed up to 2015. While some road expansion is not ruled out, the manifesto emphasises support for rail services.

    Labour also recognises the need to manage road space better, advocating car pool lanes for vehicles carrying more than one passenger and the potential for a national road pricing system. Funding to promote walking and cycling will continue and measures to reduce emissions will be supported, it pledges.

    While prime minister Tony Blair has said that climate change is the world's greatest environmental challenge, his party's manifesto has less to say on broad environmental problems.

    But its offer includes a "polluter improves" system whereby firms finance land remediation or environmental projects rather than simply paying fines.

    It would also ensure that all homes are built to high environmental standards on energy efficiency and water use under the sustainable buildings code.

    The Conservative Party's slimline manifesto, a mere 28 pages, aims to appeal to voters by promising to devolve power back to the community.

    The Tories vow that local people would have more say over planning decisions, including action against illegal traveller camps.

    They would scrap the regional assemblies and transfer responsibilities for strategic planning, transport and housing back to councils. Leader Michael Howard also wants to tighten green belt protection and focus development on brownfield sites.

    Homeownership is a central pillar of Tory housing policy. The party would extend the right to buy to housing association tenants and give social housing tenants the right to own a share of their home. On transport, it seeks to appease motorists by modernising the road network and reviewing all speed cameras. Successful rail companies would be given longer franchises.

    The Conservatives have been criticised for a lack of commitment to the environment. Their pledge list includes some general green aims for phasing out harmful emissions as well as promoting energy efficiency and renewables.

    But lobby groups fear that environmental protection is towards the bottom of the party's priorities.

    In contrast, the Liberal Democrats make a point of putting green action at the heart of their policies. In a tabloid-style manifesto, the party pitches itself as a "real alternative" to its two main rivals. But similarities have crept into its agenda.

    Like the Conservatives, Charles Kennedy's party wants to see power moved away from Whitehall. It promises to introduce a community planning system to give local people more say, while county councils would resume strategic planning responsibilities from regional bodies.

    The Lib Dems insist that they would use public sector land to provide affordable homes, along similar lines to Labour. They also pledge to reform VAT to encourage brownfield development.

    The party wants to build one million homes to high environmental standards by 2012 and would not replace nuclear power stations when they reach the end of their life span, a vow unheard of in the Labour and Tory camps.

    It aims to include carbon dioxide emission targets in development plans and accounting for climate change in transport policies.

    The Lib Dems' plans for longer rail franchises and cutting car tax for green vehicles are consistent with Tory proposals. But they go further by promising to switch funding from roads to public transport and encourage road user charging. They oppose airport expansion and would press for international agreement on extending emissions trading to aviation.

    The environmental slant evident in all Green Party policies fills a void for many in the political spectrum. Principal speaker for the Greens Keith Taylor promises a programme for "the next hundred years and not the next hundred days".

    It remains to be seen whether the Lib Dems' green offer will appeal to that constituency. Elsewhere, an element of crossover on local governance and affordable homes shows a degree of political consensus.

    Many of the parties' promises will depend on economic decisions as well as the guts to pursue far-reaching strategies to tackle the housing crisis, climate change and transport problems. It is down to voters to look at the wider picture and decide which party can really deliver.

    PARTY POLITICAL MANIFESTO COMMITMENTS

    LABOUR PARTY

    PLANNING AND GOVERNMENT - Continued housing growth and renewal through the sustainable communities plan. More responsibility for regional assemblies.

    HOUSING - Use surplus public land to build homes for 15,000 first-time buyers. Chance to part-buy for 300,000 council and housing association tenants. Extra 10,000 social homes a year by 2008.

    TRANSPORT - Increase rail capacity, high-speed trains and rural rail services. Some road building plus car-sharing and national road pricing. Support value-for-money light rail schemes. Continue backing Crossrail.

    ENVIRONMENT - Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010. Generate 20 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020. All publicly-funded homes to meet sustainable buildings code by April 2006. More recycling and crackdown on litter, graffiti and fly-tipping.

    CONSERVATIVE PARTY

    PLANNING AND GOVERNMENT - Abolish regional assemblies. Return powers to councils. Replace ODPM with local government department. Scrap communities plan. Action on traveller camps.

    HOUSING - Extend right to buy for housing association tenants. Right to shared ownership for social housing tenants. Concentrate new-build housing on brownfields. Tighter green belt policy.

    TRANSPORT - Modernise road network with road building and widening schemes. Review all speed cameras. Longer rail franchises to improve station facilities.

    ENVIRONMENT - Phase out harmful hydrofluorocarbons. More incentives for energy efficient homes. Lower tax on green vehicles. Support renewable energy.

    LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

    PLANNING AND GOVERNMENT - Introduce community planning system. Cut government departments. Return power to councils and transfer strategic planning to county level.

    HOUSING - Use public sector land to build 100,000 affordable homes. Reform VAT to promote brownfield projects. Raise stamp duty threshold to £150,000. Planning control over second homes.

    TRANSPORT - Switch road building funding to upgrade railways. Longer rail franchises. Cut car tax for green vehicles and introduce road user charging. Extend emissions trading to aviation. Oppose airport expansion.

    ENVIRONMENT - Develop sustainable plans. Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010. Generate 20 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020. One million high environmental quality homes by 2012. No replacement of existing nuclear power stations.
    Apologies for posting the whole article rather than just a link, but you have to be a member of the RTPI to access the website.

  22. #22
    You forgot the important one!

    The Monster Raving Loony Party Manifesto

    Very tempting.
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  23. #23

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    What do you all think about the horrific proposal by Labour to in effect make criticizing religion illegal? Yucko.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    I know BKM That'd eliminate like 60% of what you have to say.

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    What do you all think about the horrific proposal by Labour to in effect make criticizing religion illegal? Yucko.
    Have to admit I've not heard of this one BKM.

    Although to be honest it sounds like a classic Conservative paper (eg. The Daily Mail ) headline. I suspect it has its roots in strengthening the laws on anti-semitism and anti-islamic statements, but I'd have to see what the actual law said.

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