How the broadcasting rules will thwart UKIP

How the broadcasting rules will thwart UKIP

    UKIP will get less than 2% of the national vote

The UKIP threat to Michael Howard’s party at the General Election could be blunted by the rules which determine how the broadcasting organisations are allowed to cover the campaign once it has been declared.

    For although these have yet to be finalised they will almost certainly follow previous practice and allocate the lion’s share of election broadcasts to those defined as “major parties” – Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and, in Scotland and Wales respectively, the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

This matters because in broad terms the amount of radio and TV coverage the parties get in news and current affairs programmes is linked to the number of election broadcasts. Those parties not deemed as “major” – the Greens, Respect, the BNP and UKIP – will find it hard to command much beyond token references.

For George Galloway’s Respect this should not matter too much because the focus of his party’s campaign will be on the select group of seats where their volunteer base can campaign on the ground. For UKIP the inability to secure the national media coverage on the scale of the June 2004 Euro Elections will be crucial.

    Even having huge campaign budgets does not break the “major party” monopoly at General Elections. In 1997 James Goldsmith’s Referendum party secured just 2.6% of the vote in spite of having a reported £20m budget.

In the same election UKIP got 0.3% bringing the total anti-EU vote to less than 3% in 1997 in spite of these mega-budgets. It is hard to see UKIP reaching 2% in the coming election. Their main donor in June, Sir Paul Sykes, has already indicated his worries about providing support if it would undermine the Tories.

Most of the current polls have ratings for UKIP at 4-5%. We expect 2-3% of that to move to the Tories by polling day. It is interesting that Communicate Research, the one pollster that does not list the parties to those surveyed, only records 2% for UKIP. Without reminding people forget – what’s likely to happen in the election campaign. CR’s 34% for the Tories is Michael Howard’s highest current share.

The latest spread on Spreadfair for UKIP is 0.6 – 1.1 seats at the General Election.

Remember to post your entry in our General Election competition.

Mike Smithson

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