OFCOM consultation

January 14, 2015

Now this one?  This one is worth responding to.  I urge you to go here (link to the response form) and have a few words, even if you can’t be faffed to read the whole condoc.

It’s the OFCOM consultation on their daft proposal to count UKIP as a “major party” in the next election but not to count the Greens.  Aside from giving Cameron an excuse to weasel out of the leadership debate, it’s simply bad policy.  The Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish parties are counted in their respective countries but not nationally, so we’ll leave them aside for the moment.  But the Greens have had an MP in the Commons since the 2010 election, whereas UKIP’s two MPs both date from this parliament and were, respectively, turncoat tories who won Orpington Man-style by-elections caused by their own defections.  Logically, to me, you either count both parties as having broken through to “major” status, or neither.  But counting UKIP and not the Greens?  That’s just… daft.

There are three questions to which OFCOM are seeking answers: here they are, together with my answers.

Question 1: Please provide your views on:
a) the evidence of current support laid out in Annex 2, and
b) whether there is any other relevant evidence which you consider Ofcom should take into account for the purposes of the 2015 review of the list of major parties

I do not believe polling data (other than votes in actual elections) should determine coverage in elections.

Question 2: Do you agree with our assessment in relation to each of:
a) The existing major parties,
b) Traditional Unionist Voice in Northern Ireland,
c) The Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party), and
d) UKIP?
Please provide reasons for your views.

a) yes b) no opinion c) No: on the strength of having an MP elected at the general election and of being (on the evidence of local councils etc) a national party, the Greens should be considered a major party. d) No: to me, the same conditions apply to the Greens and to UKIP. I have no objections to UKIP being included on the same terms as the Greens, but I object strongly to their being included and the Greens excluded on the basis of commercial (and therefore inherently not neutral/impartial) polling data.

Question 3: Do you agree with the proposed amendment to Rule 9 of the PPRB Rules Procedures outlined in paragraph 3.7 above? Please provide reasons for your views.

I am not entirely clear from the wording of the consultation document on how the change would work in detail. It seems to me sensible that a party or representative of a party should not be able to use up OFCOM’s time and resources by making frivolous or malicious complaints, but I would be against the decision resting purely on the say-so of the Chair of the Election Committee (if that is, indeed, the intention.)

The consultation is open till 5th February so you have time to have a look, and I would urge you to do so.  I think they got this one wrong, and we might well be able to get them to look again and get it right.

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