Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced that the UK generalelection will take place on May 5, kick starting a month of politicalcampaigning that will see the main political parties set out their policiestowards the film industry.

ChancellorGordon Brown spelt out the key plank of the ruling Labour Party's policytowards film in his budget last month when he announced plans to introduce newtax credits to replace the existing Section 48 and Section 42 tax reliefs.

However, the month long political campaign is likely todelay further the introduction of the new credits.

Uncertainty surrounding the nature of the credits is alreadysaid to be affecting film shoots in the UK. This week, Paramount said it wasreviewing its decision to shoot the $120m The Watchmen at PinewoodShepperton because of "the loss of certain rebates".

Meanwhile,the Conservative Party - which appears to be closing on Labour's lead accordingto recent polls - has just published its arts policy.

TheConservatives say they will increase funding for the UK Film Council.

They havealso pledged to continue with the existing Section 48 tax relief for low budgetfilms.

They alsowant to devise a new tax relief for large budget films to "encourage moremarket investment; place greater emphasis on film distribution; be stable inthe long term; and not subject to abuse."

TheConservatives have also singled out piracy as a campaign issue, saying that"under Labour, piracy has spiralled out of control."

The Liberal Democrats, who are in third place in opinionpolls, have outlined three main policy areas concerning the film industry.

They have pledged to ensure that public servicebroadcasters, in particular the BBC, support the British film industry.

The Liberal Democrats also say they will toughen planninglaws to make it more difficult for cinemas to be converted into otherfacilities. They also want to bring forward legislation to protect artists'rights and intellectual property in the creative industries.

Meanwhile,the start of the political campaign means that the UK Film Council - like othergovernment agencies - must refrain from announcing key initiatives to the pressuntil the election results are known.

However, new investments can still be made, but without theusual fanfare.

During the run-up to the election, an industry delegation led by the UK Film Council is understood to be heading to meet studio bosses in Los Angeles todiscuss their concerns about shooting in the UK