The UK Independence Party is a major party, but the Green party is not, the communications regulator Ofcom has ruled, in a decision that will guarantee Nigel Farage’s eurosceptic grouping marginally more airtime before May’s general election.
The ruling means there are now four designated major parties in England and Wales — the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Ukip — reflecting the fragmentation in opinion polls in recent months.
Each is entitled to a minimum of two party political broadcasts on key commercial TV and radio stations, including ITV, Channel 4 and Classic FM. The BBC is responsible for its own schedule of party political broadcasts, but is also likely to include Ukip and not the Greens.
Mr Farage called Ofcom’s decision “great news”. “It will cement in people’s minds: if you vote Ukip, you’ll get Ukip,” he posted on Twitter.
Major party status does not affect the TV debates, in which the Greens are now set to be included after a request by David Cameron.
Ofcom’s decision took into account the fact that Ukip averaged about 15 per cent in recent British opinion polls, while the Greens had 6 per cent. Ukip had also performed more strongly in local and European elections — receiving 29 per cent of the vote in England in 2014 European elections, compared with the Greens’ 8 per cent.
“These are significant points of distinction between Ukip and the Green party for the purposes for this assessment,” the regulator said.
Party political broadcasts are awarded in place of political TV and radio advertising, which is banned in the UK. They are seen by some political figures as having lost importance, with parties now able to reach voters via social media campaigns and YouTube.
However, in the 2010 election, many of the short clips often attracted more than 1m viewers, thanks to their place in the TV schedule. Major party status is also symbolic for Ukip, which has been mocked by the major political parties and newspapers.
Ukip is not considered a major party in Scotland, where the Scottish National party is. In Wales, Plaid Cymru is considered a major party. Northern Ireland has five major parties: the Alliance party, the Democratic Unionist party, Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic and Labour party, and the Ulster Unionist party.
Non-major parties, still receive one party political broadcast if they put forward candidates in at least one-sixth of the seats at a general election. The Greens, which have strengthened in the polls in recent months, could also be awarded extra airtime by the broadcasters.
Ofcom said that its rules were “minimum requirements”, beyond which “the broadcasters are free to make their own judgments as to the number of party election broadcasts offered to political parties”.
“During the last general election, broadcasters allocated more than the required minimum of party election broadcasts,” the regulator said.
Labour’s 2010 offering included former EastEnders actor Ross Kemp warning of the risk of Conservative-Lib Dem coalition saying: “If you get into bed with Nick Clegg, you might just wake up with David Cameron.”
In a Conservative broadcast, David Cameron said he would help to build “a nation of volunteers”, because “all the acts of parliament, all the policy initiatives — they’re all just words without the involvement of you, the people.”
Get alerts on United Kingdom Independence Party when a new story is published