Leader: Tony Blair: The Labour party was formed in 1906 to represent the working class in Parliament and traditionally has a close relationship with the trade unions. It first won a parliamentary majority in the election of 1945 and introduced a range of social reforms that became known as the "welfare state", such as the National Health Service and a major expansion of council housing. It implemented the policy of secondary education for all, as promised by the wartime national government in the Butler Education Act of 1944. It was previously associated with the nationalisation of major industries (such as coal) and wide-reaching state planning in order to reduce poverty. Since the 1980s it has moved away from the idea of state direction of the economy towards a greater acceptance of the free market, although it still supports government action in favour of equal opportunities for all. It is broadly supportive of British involvement in the European Union.
Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4GT 020 7802 1000 www.labour.org.uk
PARTY: Leader: William Hague.
The Conservative party developed out of the 18th-century Tory party and changed its name to Conservative in the 19th century. Traditionally associated with preserving the power of the landowners, it now regards itself as the defender of all types of private property and business enterprise. It supports the free market as the best way to promote prosperity and aims to reduce taxation and minimise government activity. It takes a strong stance on law and order and is sceptical about further development of Britain's role in the European Union.
32 Smith Square, Westminster, London SW1P 3HH 020 7222 9000 www.tory.org.uk
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PARTY
Leader: Charles Kennedy.
The Liberal party evolved out of the Whigs in the 19th century as a party willing to re-examine constitutional structures and make changes.
It supports opportunity for the individual and has traditionally been supported by groups that feel excluded from the Establishment, such as Non-conformst Christians and nations and regions within the UK. It has campaigned for devolution and proportional representation. It strongly supports British membership of the European Union and advocates raising taxes to improve the education, health and social services.
It became the Liberal Democrat party in 1989 after joining with the Social Democrat party, a breakaway group from the Labour party.
4 Cowley Street, London SW1P 3NB 020 7222 7999 www.libdems.org.uk
SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY
Leader: John Swinney.
The Scottish National party was formed in 1934 and campaigns for an independent Scotland within a European confederation.
It has traditionally argued that the natural resources in and around Scotland should be used for the benefit of the Scottish people rather than being dispersed around the UK. It supports higher spending on social services and education and is campaigning for smaller class sizes and abolition of league tables.
6 North Charlotte Street Edinburgh EH2 4JH 0131 226 3661 www.snp.org.uk
Leader: Ieuan Wyn Jones.
Plaid Cymru was set up in 1925 to campaign in support of the Welsh language and culture and to achieve Welsh independence.
It wants Wales to be a full member of the EU and the UN. It supports greater public spending on health, education and welfare, and public investment in transport, industry and agriculture.
18 Park Grove Cardiff CF10 3BN 029 2064 6000 www.plaidcymru.org
THE GREEN PARTY
Leader: none - local groups.
The Green party was formed in the 1970s to campaign for sustainable development. It believes that a system of competition should be replaced by co-operation and supports regional planning based on developing local communities. It works to promote recycling, organic farming, sustainable tourism, improved public transport, energy conservation and the use of renewable energy. It supports small schools and wants to abolish the national curriculum and public exams.
1a Waterlow Road London N19 5NJ 020 7272 4474 www.greenparty.org.uk Wales office PO Box 10 Mountain Ash Wales CF45 4YZ 01443 741242 www.walesgreenparty.org.uk