Ofcom has today published a consultation on the political parties it lists as ‘major parties’ ahead of the General Election in May 2015.
The list of major parties is important for Ofcom’s regulation of election coverage, in particular requiring the relevant broadcasters to allocate at least two Party Election Broadcasts to each major party ahead of an election.
These broadcasters are ITV, STV, UTV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Classic FM, Talksport and Absolute Radio. Broadcasters can also choose to allocate additional Party Election Broadcasts.
Party Election Broadcasts on the BBC are regulated by the BBC Trust and currently the subject of a consultation.
Ofcom keeps its list of major parties under review to ensure it reflects political developments in the UK.
Ofcom’s existing list of major parties is:
Based on available evidence, Ofcom’s initial view is there is no strong argument to remove any of the existing parties from the list of major parties.
Ofcom has also considered whether other parties should be added to the list. Based on available evidence, Ofcom is consulting on whether three parties would qualify for the major parties list for the 2015 General Election. These are:
Ofcom’s initial view is that UKIP may qualify for major party status in England and Wales for the General Election and English local elections on 7 May 2015.
Ofcom’s initial view is neither the Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party) nor the TUV have secured sufficient support in previous elections and current opinion polls to be added to Ofcom’s major party list for the purposes of the May 2015 elections.
In deciding which parties are on the list, Ofcom assesses all relevant evidence of support including:
In relation to the Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party), the TUV and UKIP the evidence indicates that:
The party has not demonstrated significant past electoral support in General Elections. The Green Party has performed better in some other forms of election, such as the 2014 European Parliamentary elections, obtaining 8.0% and 8.1% of the vote in England and Scotland.
In terms of evidence of current support, the party’s opinion poll rating in Great Britain-wide polls has increased in recent months to 5.9% in December 2014 (4.0% on average during 2014).
The TUV has not demonstrated significant past electoral support in General Elections. The party performed better in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections, obtaining 12.1% of the vote in Northern Ireland. However, it has not demonstrated significant support in other forms of election or significant current support in opinion polls.
UKIP has not demonstrated significant past electoral support in previous General Elections, achieving 3.5% of the vote in 2010 and has not won a Parliamentary seat at a General Election.
UKIP’s performance in a number of other significant forms of election has, however, been stronger. Notably, UKIP has won two seats in Parliament at recent by-elections.
UKIP demonstrated a significant level of support in England and Wales in the European Parliament elections in 2014 (29.2% England, 27.6% Wales) while its share of the vote was lower in Scotland (10.5%). UKIP also demonstrated significant levels of support in the English local elections (15.7% in 2014 and 19.9% in 2013).
Opinion poll data indicates that UKIP currently has significant levels of support in England and Wales and has the third highest rating in those polls after the Conservative and Labour parties. Opinion poll data in Scotland shows lower levels of current support.
Ofcom is seeking views on its initial assessment. The consultation is open until Thursday, 5 February and Ofcom expects to publish a statement, and if appropriate a revised list of major parties, by early March 2015.