Swing baby, swing!

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Thirteen years ago in May, the Labour Party swept the Tories out of Westminster, winning a landslide parliamentary majority in Britain’s national election.

On Monday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown asked the Queen to call another election, one that could see Labour ousted and the Conservative Party of David Cameron back in power.?? Or maybe not. The presence of the small’ish Liberal Democrats on the ballot and a number of other minor parties could result in a “hung parliament” — with Labour and the Tories competing to establish a coalition government.

For political junkies, this is as good as it gets — original Star Wars trilogy mashed up with Lord of the Rings. And it’s all about the swing, baby! How many percentage points will the British electorate swing away from Labour and toward the Conservatives (or, er, the mild LibDems or the Tea Party-equivalent BNP).

There’s another plus for American journalists charged with covering the 2010 midterm elections: We can watch and see how the British media use the Web to cover the election. Wait, that’s not exactly right … we get to watch the Brits’ news sites play with interactivity and databases to hook readers on the rest of their reporting on the election.

I haven’t had time to dig deep, but some of the usual suspects of UK journalism have posted pretty strong multimedia packages. Here are some that caught my eye:

* The BBC site’s Swingometer is candy for junkies. It lets you compare matchups between the three major parties, as in how many seats would change hands if voters move toward a party by a certain percentage. The Guardian has its own swingometer, but I think BBC’s is more intuitive.

* The BBC also has a guide to the seats being targeted by the major parties. Given that there are 650 seats in the House of Commons, there are a good many seats in play (the result of multi-party competition, the more regular redrawing of parliamentary seat boundaries, and the fact that Britain is a parliamentary democracy).

* Yahoo! News UK has a pretty good map as well (lower half of main Y! UK election page), but what I liked most is the other map that pulls in Twitter feeds from candidates. Sure, it’s not an especially “deep” piece of journalism, but it is a service to readers and certainly shows how social media is changing politics. Plus it’s cool, and I work for Yahoo! … ahem …

* Just about all the major newspaper sites have election maps (The Telegraph, The Guardian…), but the BBC takes the cake. But don’t miss The Times’s map; it takes a while to load, but it’s pretty slick.

I hope to have time to continue watching how British media cover the general election. If you see something interesting, please let me know.

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