Politics in the time of Web 1.0 – Liam Butler

Ever wondered what the first versions of our political parties’ websites looked like? No? Well I’ve gone and found them anyway. Just in time for our annual General Election.

I used the Wayback Machine to look for the earliest recorded versions for the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and UKIP. The Machine doesn’t always make perfect copies of the sites (hence some images being missing) but you’ll get the idea.

Cast your minds back to November 1996. ‘Breathe’ by The Prodigy was #1 in the UK charts. Boris Johnson was compulsively telling lies in his Telegraph column instead of compulsively telling lies everywhere.

And the Conservatives thought thought that a sandstone background would make their site look like the absolute dog’s bollocks:


I’d forgotten that they used to have a flaming torch as their insignia. I’d say it’s a much more suitable logo than what they have now. Especially after Grenfell.

My favourite thing about their website? If you click on ‘Our Values’, you get a 404.

No change there, then.

Here is the Labour Party’s website. Top points for the link that just says ‘Women’:


Cosmetics manufacturers constantly remind us of all the things that cause ageing: UV light, smoking, red meat, laughing, frowning, drinking, existing. Looking at the photo of pre-PM Tony Blair, they may want to make some additions to that list, namely: Gordon Brown, The Hutton Inquiry, and giving PR advice to Kazakh tyrants while still claiming to have moral authority.

Their slogan was ‘new Labour new life for Britain’, which, when you think about it, makes about as much sense as committing not to use a nuclear weapons system but then pledging to renew it anyway.

Back in those days, it wasn’t so much about canvassing support as it was about selling the merchandise. History of the Labour Party on cassette, anyone?

The ‘Calculate order’ button, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, was not credible. Though 163 economists then signed a letter saying that the ‘Calculate order’ button was indeed credible. It’s anyone’s guess, really.

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when the Liberal Democrats weren’t despised by every under-30 in the country.


Isn’t it adorable how they insist on hyphenating ‘e-mail’ and ‘on-line’?

Back then websites were more like esoteric point-and-click adventures; you’d spend half an hour figuring out how to get to the next section. I resorted to methodically clicking on every pixel until I was able to get past the intro page. Eventually, I sussed that I needed to click on that tiny image of a door.

Once I got in, it was very disappointing. Much like in 2010 when they got in. Take THAT, Nick Clegg. Satire.

I’ve not heard anyone use the term ‘snail mail’ in years. It’s due a revival.

Then there’s the Green Party. Their site is a bit boring because, well, they’re the Green Party:


The pièce de résistance has to be UKIP’s earliest effort from back in 2000. It’s a multimedia extravaganza.


Surprisingly, they recommend that the site is viewed on monitors with 256 colours. I was under the impression that most UKIP supporters would like for there to be just one colour.

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