Caught in the net

18th April 1997 at 01:00
We will introduce the electric chair, but only for murderers who have committed at least two crimes . . . We will combat teenage crime by introducing a curfew for people under the age of 16, and they won't be allowed out without a parent or guardian after 10.30pm."

So, from whose election manifesto is this little bit of "getting tough on crime"? Not, despite its modish inclusion of a juvenile curfew, a party likely to win any seats at Westminster on May 1.

It is the People's Party, formed by five Year 7 boys at Burley Middle School, West Yorkshire, a contender in the school's own mini-election. It will challenge the all-girl Practical Party - both are running their campaigns on the school's intranet.

You can read all about both parties' policies on the Burley Middle School Web site (http:www.

Many other schools around the UK are staging mock general elections this month, and many are using the Internet as a source of political information and as the platform for their campaigning, and polling and posting of results.

For the first time, schools will be able to use the Internet to take part in BBC Newsround's national schools election, using the "X Project" pages on BT's CampusWorld. Phil Moore of BT CampusWorld says 21,000 pupils were sent their electronic "voting keys" before the Easter break, with an upsurge in registrations expected over the next couple of weeks.

Polling day for the Newsround election is a week before the real thing - April 23 - with results broadcast on Friday April 25. Schools still have time to register, and enter their election Web pages for the parallel Microsoft sponsored "Road Ahead" competition, with a Pounds 10,000 prize for the winner.

Plenty of time, too, to gen up on the real-life contenders, using the plethora of election Web sites that have emerged since John Major went to Buckingham Palace on March 17. All the parties - from Labour and Conservative to the single-issue mongers and plain crackpots - have Web sites.

The excellent General Election 97 Web site from the politics department of Keele University ( has links to the sites of more than 40 parties and interest groups. From here you can explore the manifestos of, for example, the Natural Law Party, and wonder at its defence policy, or examine the subtle gradations of ideology of numerous right and left-wing splinter parties.

Labour has built a temporary additional site specifically for the election campaign (http: frm.html). The site includes a "School Elections" section, packed with advice on campaigning for junior Labour candidates.

Competition to produce the most informative, entertaining and authoritative Internet election service for general audiences is intense. The BBC Election 97 site makes good use of its in-house expertise, and strikes a balance between information, punditry and interactive fun. Watch a map of the UK turn red, or play with Peter Snow's swingometer while the man himself lurches from left to right on the analysis page.

ITN's election site (http:www. offers useful summaries of the main parties' manifestos, and of the aims of the various marginal parties, alongside quizzes and audio and video clips. The Independent (http: and the Guardian Election 97 ( sites offer live "debating chambers", with opportunities to interrogate politicians on-line.

The Guardian's site also features one of the most engaging interactive features of any site - a comprehensive constituency database that can be searched, accessed, sorted and ranked by a multitude of criteria.

More fun and games, chat, serious analysis and news are available on GE97, which includes a Yahoo-sponsored daily polling system on various issues for those who can't wait for May 1.

And, of course, for a focused guide to what the parties are promising on education, there is nowhere better than the General Election 1997 area in TES Network, part of The TES Internet service (

Bill Hicks For information on the BT CampusWorld on-line schools election, phone 0345 573393.

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