A friend of mine runs a thinktank in the UK, and they’ve launched this recently. It’s called Votematch, and it allows people to answer policy questions, and then be matched to the parties closest to them. What is fascinating about it, from an Irish perspective, is the almost impossibility of doing something like this in Ireland, because our parties are all philosophically so close together. Yes, they do have different policies, but mostly because one of them got a specific policy first, and so the others are against it. Take co-location of hospitals. FG say they are against them, but only because the govt is in favour. Does FG really have a problem with free market activity in the health sector? Of course not. Ask FF/FG/Labour/Green/SF for a single differentiating line of health policy, and they will all come out with something like “We believe in a world class health service, properly funded and resourced.” In other words, something Pol Pot could have come out with. As opposed to the Tories admitting that they would like to see more private sector involvement.
The other interesting thing is that no one in Ireland is willing to openly admit to being a Tory. Most default for the Lib Dems (espc Fianna Failers, who for the most part seem to know f**k all about the Lib Dems policies, which tend to be to the left of the Irish Labour Party, at least until fairly recently. Show me one Fianna Failer who is publicly in favour of gay adoption? Abortion? Higher taxes for the rich? NATO?) and some, on the Irish left, gut instinct for Labour even though British Labour is only now wandering dazed back towards its leftwing roots.
The fact is, Fianna Fail is, in policy terms, most like the Tories. The Tories are as unbending in their monarchist tendencies as FF is towards Dev. The Tories support massive cuts in spending, as do FF. The Tories attack EU federalism, but play along in the end, just like FF. The Tories pander to rural communities, and farmers, as do FF. There are differences, of course. The Tories are more socially liberal than FF (they support gay marriage) and have less faith in the state than FF, but that is a relatively new thing in the Tory ethos. And anyway, FF is more rightwing than the Tories on the idea of the state not interfering in the running of stuff (like banks, orphanages, industrial schools, nursing homes, the Gardai in Donegal, political donations, proper planning, implementing benchmarking), whereas the Tories actually expect banking regulators to, you know, regulate what’s going on in the banks.
If they were Brits, most Fianna Failers would be Tories.