Thursday, May 5

The Political Climate

Voters are going to the polls in the UK general election at the end of a 30-day campaign.
Polling stations will remain open in 645 constituencies until 2200 BST, with the first results due at about 23.45 hrs.

It will not be clear who will form the next government until the early hours of Friday morning. I will be earning a crust a commentator on BBC Radio Clevland from 10pm this evening.
Voting has been postponed in the , Staffordshire South, because one of the candidates died after nominations closed.
Local elections are also taking place in 34 county councils and three unitary authorities in England. There are also four mayoral contests one of which is in Hartlepool in the North East.
There are also elections in all 26 councils in Northern Ireland.

Labour leader Tony Blair cast his vote in his Sedgefield constituency, along with his wife and two sons.Conservative leader Michael Howard will be voting in Folkestone and Hythe and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy in Ross and Skye.
There will be an increased police presence near polling stations in Westminster and other parts of London. Hector my aged tabby is complaining bitterly that the Police hellecopter deployed to watch over Mr Blair's Sedfield Constituency home some 6 miles away is disturbing his catnaps.The noise (from Hector) is probably in breach of some invioremental regulation.

At the end of the last Parliament, Labour had 410 MPs, the Conservatives 164 and the Liberal Democrats 54.

The Scottish National Party also have five seats, Plaid Cymru four, the Democratic Unionists seven, the Ulster Unionists five, Sinn Fein four, the SDLP three, and one each for Respect, Independent and Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern.

To gain a majority at this election, when boundary changes mean there are fewer seats available, one party needs to win 324 seats.
Sunderland South was the first to declare its result in 2001, just 43 minutes after the polls closed.

More people will vote by post than ever before
But the national picture of how the parties stand will not emerge until at least 0100 BST on Friday.

Attention will also be on turn-out, which in 2001 fell to 59%, the lowest level since 1918.

Election organisers hope postal voting will help turn-out, although there have been concerns about the security of the system against fraud.

Voters taking the traditional polling station route are asked to take their voting cards, although other types of identification may be allowed.

People who have been sent postal ballots can still vote by delivering them by hand to a local polling station or the address on their envelope.

Previous elections suggest weather may have an impact on turn-out.
Cloud and patchy rain is forecast across much of the country on Thursday, although it should be dry in southern England.

Temperatures should range between 13 and 17 degrees centigrade.
In 1992, turnout was 78% on a generally dry and sunny day. Turnout was 71% in 1997, when again it was dry, sunny and very warm.

In 2001, the weather was very cool, with a brisk wind and blustery showers across the UK.

I strongly susspect that a cold wind will blow away the poltical arrogance of New Labour.

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