Useful links

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official sites | political parties | think tanks | pollsters | pressure groups and lobbyists | political weblogs

Official sites

The Electoral Commission is responsible for voter awareness in the UK. Its website provides details of how the electoral system works, parliamentary boundaries, a register of parties, lists of donations and a wealth of data on individual elections.

The UK parliament's official website features Hansard transcripts of Westminster debates and news on the status and texts of bills before parliament. It also features a directory of MPs, peers and their offices, live webcasts and guides to the legislative process.

The DirectGov portal, official gateway to government information and services, lists central government departments, executive agencies and other public bodies. It also features guides to government statistics and a step-by-step introduction to the major seats of power.

Scotland: Since devolution in 1999, several legislative powers, previously held by the UK parliament at Westminster, were given to the Scottish parliament. Its website sets out the separate roles that it and the Scottish Executive play in the legislative process.

Wales: The Welsh Assembly website includes details of the powers devolved to Wales, a who's who of Assembly members, webcasts of proceedings, committee information and a range of educational resources.

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Political parties

The ruling Labour party's website gives full details of its policies and a postcode searchable database to see "what Labour has done for you". Details for activists include guides to becoming a local councillor or school governor. You could also visit 10 Downing St.

The Conservative party's website spells out its policies and "timetable for action" while the "beliefs" section sets out the party's philosophy on issues such as enterprise and opportunity. Visitors can also buy a 3-CD box set of Margaret Thatcher's speeches.

The Liberal Democrats site gives ten reasons to vote for the party and full details of its campaigns. Alongside biographies of the key Lib Dem figures you will find a selection of comic e-postcards and videos of their party political broadcasts.

The Scottish National Party's site has briefing notes on policies, biographies of all the party's elected members and details of campaigns such as its call for a Scottish "citizen's pension".

Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party, offers a (naturally) bilingual site with emphasis on party information, history and constitution and details of campaigns such as their fight for affordable Welsh housing.

Sinn Fein's English/Gaelic website has a firm historical focus with documents on the conflict in Northern Ireland and its plans for Irish unity as well as a subscription-based news service.

The web home of the SDLP, the moderate Northern Irish nationalist party, offers political briefings, SDLP policy documents and consultation responses.

The site of the Ulster Unionists, led by David Trimble, erstwhile first minister of the Northern Ireland assembly, is rich on policy documents and offers a range of policy pamphlets for activists to download.

Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists, the UUP's arch rivals, bills itself as "Northern Ireland's leading political party". Its site includes a range of services for activists, including text message updates.

No-one can accuse the United Kingdom Independence Party of being wishy-washy when it comes to policies. Articles such as "What is the Point of the European Union?" sit alongside a "Keep the pound" bathrobe offer for £30.

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Think tanks

The Institute of Public Policy Research, "the UK's leading progressive think tank", is close to the Labour party and was set up in 1988 to counter the then influential right-wing organisations such as the Centre for Policy Studies. Publishes on topics such as public private partnerships.

 The Fabian Society was set up in 1884 as a socialist society committed to gradual rather than revolutionary social reform. It is affiliated to but independent of the Labour party. Early members included George Bernard Shaw and H G Wells.

The Centre for European Reform aims to improve the quality of the debate on the future of the European Union. Current publications include "What happens if Britain votes no - ten ways out of a constitutional crisis".

Many of the policies eventually identified as "New Labour" originated from the Demos think tank. Current publications include "Manufacturing dissent" - a look at single-issue protest, the public and the press.

The Institute of Economic Affairs is a free-market think tank closely associated with the Tories and their rise to power in the late 1970s. Their site highlights articles such as "Why charity is better than state welfare" and "The miracle of privatisation".

Another right-wing outfit, The Centre for Policy Studies, "a focal point for liberal pamphleteers" since 1974, reached its zenith under the Thatcher governments, specialising in subjects such as free markets and privatisation.

The Adam Smith Institute bills itself as the "leading innovator of free-market policies", calling for reduced taxes and smaller government. Current thinking includes a call for a UK flat rate tax. Has also lost influence since Britain moved leftwards in 1997.

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Pollsters

The website for Mori, founded by veteran pollster Robert Worcester, offers a range of data on the forthcoming general election as well as surveys such as "Voting and the perception gap".

YouGov, the internet polling firm, carries out a wide range of political surveys for the UK media. Claims to be the UK's most accurate pollster, often to 1% accuracy.

ICM Research carries out a range of polls on everything from the Sudan-1 food scare to the Conservatives' policy on immigration and the attitude of the British public towards the new European Union constitution.

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Pressure groups and lobbyists

TheyWorkForYou.com is a site run by volunteer developers aiming to counter voter apathy with a "healthy mixture of transparency and public engagement". The site offers user friendly searching of Hansard and data on the performance of all MPs and their interests.

Tactical voting is a relatively new concept in Britain. Tacticalvoter.net is one of the more prominent anti-Tory organising sites, using the web to swap votes, while Backing Blair, an anti-Iraq war site, aims to topple the Labour leader.

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Spinwatch is run by a team of academics and reseachers with a sceptical eye on the PR and lobbying industry, campaiging against what they see as the manipulations of the industry and government spin.

Factcheck is a new service launched by a team of Channel 4 journalists, aiming to provide independent analysis of what the political parties and their leaders are saying during the campaign.

The Trades Union Congress, the co-ordinating body of Britain's unions, runs a content-rich website with information on campaigns, employment rights and analysis of the UK economy.

The internet home of the Confederation of British Industry features policy documents and minisites on a range of issues, including public services and employment .

The British Chambers of Commerce site features Manifesto 2005, outlining the policies it wants a new government to adopt, including measures on competitiveness and regulation.

The Federation of Small Businesses lays out its six key principles for the general election, with policy pleas on matters such as simpler taxes and investment in skills.

The website of Age Concern highlights how older voters could swing the general election. Two thirds of older voters say they are absolutely certain to vote, compared with under two fifths of 18-54 year olds, it says.

The state of the National Health Service is always a key issue in election campaigns. The King's Fund has carried out an extensive audit of Labour's record on the NHS since it came to power.

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Political weblogs

Zero Five is FT.com's own general election blog, chronicling media and web coverage in the run-up to polling day and follows Zero Four, our US presidential election weblog.

Although yet to achieve the prominence of their US counterparts, UK bloggers are gearing up to fight their first proper online election. Here's a comprehensive list, with RSS feeds, courtesy of Voidstar.com

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