British election: May 6

Britons will go the polls on Thursday, May 6 for one of their too-infrequent national elections. I don’t think I’ll have much to say about the campaign, but if I do it will happen on this post, where you are invited to discuss events as they unfold over the coming month so as to keep the main threads slightly less off-topic. For now, I’ll stick to a few key facts. At the last general election five years ago, Labour polled 35.3 per cent, the Conservatives 32.3 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 22.1 per cent. This translated into 356 seats for Labour, 198 for the Conservatives and 62 for the Liberal Democrats, with another 30 won by Irish unionists, Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists and assorted odd-bods. By-elections, defections, party explusions and suspensions (the latter being unusually common due to the expenses scandal) plus two deaths and a resignation that occurred too recently to have allowed for by-elections have left the current numbers at Labour 341, Conservative 193, Liberal Democrats 63 and others 46, with three vacancies.

Labour will retain power in its own right if there is a uniform swing of less than 1.6 per cent (which in the non-preferential voting context refers simply to the gap between support for the two parties), while the Conservatives will win a majority if it’s more than 6.9 per cent. The dividing line between Labour and the Conservatives emerging as the largest party in a hung parliament is 4.3 per cent. This of course dubiously assumes status quo results for the minor parties. In fact, the polls mostly have the Liberal Democrats losing some ground since 2005, with the Conservatives hoping to nab a few seats from them, while nobody seems to know what’s going on with the Scottish Nationalists.

To the best of my limited knowledge, the closest British equivalent to the unnaturally fruitful Australian psephoblogosphere is a site called Political Betting, known to its enthusiasts as “PB” (which between Poll Bludger and Peter Brent seems to be a charmed set of initials as these things go). As the name suggests, the site seeks to tell those wishing to punt on British elections what they need to know, and in doing so covers very much the same ground as this one, right down to its sprawling and unruly comments threads.

UPDATE: This site’s sole overseas reader (to the best of my knowledge), the aptly named Tokenyank, offers in comments that UK Polling Report fits the bill at least as well as Political Betting.