Who's Who In British Politics

The Labour Party, the Conservative, or Tory, Party and the Liberal Democratic Party are scrambling following Thursday's inconclusive election to form a coalition government. Here's a look at their leaders and the party positions.

The Labour Party And Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown, 59, became prime minister in 2007, after Tony Blair's resignation. Brown entered politics in 1983. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption AFP/Getty Images

The Labour Party came to power in 1997 after a long stretch of Conservative Party rule by Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

With long-standing support from Britain's trade unions, Labour calls itself a "democratic socialist" party, but Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair nudged the organization closer to the political center.

Blair lost favor with many British voters over his backing of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and his close association with President George W. Bush.

Gordon Brown became Labour's leader and prime minister after Blair stepped down in 2007. He had spent the previous 10 years as chancellor of the exchequer, roughly equivalent to the U.S. Treasury secretary.

Brown claimed credit for the country's prosperity over much of that time, but opponents have charged that, as prime minister, he failed to head off the country's eventual economic slide.

Brown, 59, is the son of a Presbyterian minister. Born in Scotland, he still serves as a member of Parliament for a small constituency there.

His reputation as a brilliant but dour workaholic was softened by his marriage to public relations executive Sarah Macaulay in 2000. The couple lost an infant daughter to a brain hemorrhage in 2001. One of their two sons has cystic fibrosis.

The Labour Party's platform stresses deficit reduction and reforms to Britain's financial system. The party would deal with Britain's immigration problems by limiting the entry of unskilled migrants from places outside the European Union.

Labour also proposes a referendum in October 2011 that would offer voters the chance to reform the upper house of Parliament, the House of Lords, making it a fully elected body.


The Conservative Party And David Cameron

The Conservative, or Tory, Party has been out of power for 13 years, but it seems poised to garner the most seats in the general elections, thanks in part to an electorate that's ready for a change.

David Cameron

David Cameron, 43, was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, after just five years as a member of Parliament. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Tory leader David Cameron, 43, describes himself as a "modern compassionate conservative." He was elected party leader in 2005, after just five years in Parliament. Before running for office, he was a Conservative Party staffer and adviser to Prime Minister John Major.

Cameron and his wife, Samantha, had three children. Their eldest son died at the age of 6 after suffering a combination of cerebral palsy and epilepsy that required round-the-clock health care. They are expecting another child in September.

Cameron comes from a prominent banking family. He attended the exclusive Eton College boys' preparatory school and graduated from Oxford. His upper-class background has led Labour Party opponents to accuse him of elitism and overreliance on a so-called old-boy network of contacts from Eton.

The Tory leader throughout the 1980s was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Like her U.S. ally, President Ronald Reagan, she promoted privatization of government services and sought to reduce the power of unions.

Cameron has shifted the party's focus to social issues such as Britain's National Health Service, the school system and the environment. The party platform calls for giving voters the power to set up U.S.-style charter schools and for rejecting some local tax increases.

The Tories also favor cutting income tax rates for Britain's highest earners, some of whom pay as much as 50 percent in taxes.

The party platform calls for reducing net immigration to the U.K. to the "tens of thousands" a year, but offers few details on how that might be done. Like Labour, the Tories promise to cut immigration by unskilled workers from places outside the European Union.


The Liberal Democratic Party And Nick Clegg

The Liberal Democratic Party seeks to position itself as the most solidly centrist segment of British politics. The "Lib Dems" portray themselves as being in the pockets of neither the big trade unions nor the corporations.

Party leader Nick Clegg, 43, was a journalist, international aid worker and lobbyist before entering politics. He won his seat in Parliament in 2005 and became head of the Liberal Democrats in 2007.

Clegg is the son of a banker and is descended from Russian emigres who came to Britain after the Russian Revolution. His mother is Dutch, and he speaks Dutch, French, German and Spanish His wife is an international trade attorney from Spain. They have three young children, all boys.

Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg, 43, entered politics in 2005 and became leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2007. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption AFP/Getty Images

Clegg has supported what he calls "market solutions" for issues ranging from education to world trade. As party leader he has proposed allowing patients on National Health Service waiting lists to go to private providers if they wish, with the government paying the bill. He has also campaigned to cut spending on some defense projects.

The party is promising to break up big banks and set policies that will encourage them to do more responsible lending.

It wants to revise Britain's tax code so that millions of low-income people would pay no taxes at all, while the wealthy would pay more.

The Liberal Democrats are widely seen as being more favorable to the European Union and more critical of the United States than the two larger parties. They opposed British involvement in the Iraq war and promise strong oversight of the British military role in Afghanistan.

The Liberal Democratic environmental platform calls for 40 percent of Britain's electricity to come from renewable sources within 10 years, rising to 100 percent by 2050.

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