Is the TUV a major party? Consultations from Ofcom & BBC Trust open on which parties should be offered Election Broadcasts

Ofcom logoOfcom has launched a consultation around this year’s list of “major parties” that will be offered at least two Party Election Broadcasts on non-BBC TV and radio channels (ITV, STV, UTV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Classic FM, Talksport and Absolute Radio) ahead of May’s General Election (and the English local government elections the same day). The current major party list includes:

  • In Great Britain, the Conservative Party; the Labour Party; and the Liberal Democrats.
  • In Scotland and Wales respectively, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.
  • In Northern Ireland, the Alliance Party; the Democratic Unionist Party; Sinn Fein; the Social Democratic and Labour Party; and the Ulster Unionist Party.

In making a decision on who qualifies to be a major party, Ofcom take into account previous electoral performance, analysis of share of vote and seats won, along with current opinion polling data.

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:

  • the Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party);
  • the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) in Northern Ireland; and
  • the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

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” in May 2015. You can read Ofcom’s rationale and analysis of the evidence for this unsurprising stance on their consultation webpage.

However, Ofcom’s initial view is that “neither the Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party) nor the TUV have secured sufficient support in previous elections and current opinion polls” to merit being added to the major party list for May 2015.

The Green Party (including the Scottish Green 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.

If you have an opinion, you have until 5 February 2015 to respond to Ofcom’s consultation on its initial assessment. Their revised list of major parties will be published by early March.

BBC Trust logoA similar consultation by the BBC Trust on the criteria used for PEBs broadcast on BBC channels closes on 12 January, so you’ve just a few days to get your feedback lodged with them. Their criterion for offering election broadcasts is simpler.

Threshold Criterion for PEBs

A registered political party which stands candidates in a minimum of one sixth
of the seats up for election in a nation will qualify for one PEB in that nation …

In Northern Ireland, a political party will qualify for one PEB if it
stands candidates in a minimum of 3 seats.

[Additionally …] A registered political party which meets the threshold criterion may qualify for one or more additional PEBs in a nation if it can demonstrate substantial levels of past and/or current electoral support in that nation [in this case, Northern Ireland].

While there is prestige in being offered a few minutes on television and radio for a Party Election Broadcast, they are expensive to produce, easy to ridicule, and perhaps an increasingly ineffective way of reaching voters. A good ‘viral’ video on Facebook could reach more people and generate more engagement around the policies presented than television. But I don’t foresee any parties denied an official PEB going to the effort to produce one and run it online instead.

  • Jag

    I feel uneasy about the exclusion of Jimbo’s TUV; as OfCom says, it did secure 12% of the Euro votes last May, or 76,000.

    Okay, it’s still a one-man band, but Jimbo’s an impressive bandsman and has form in succinctly and clearly lancing anomalies, SPAD and RUC widows’ pensions to name two. He is regularly cited at the best politician in Stormont, his questioning and Assembly performances are second to none. When Sammy Wilson is reduced to calling Jimbo a “thug”, you just know Jimbo’s got the political X-Factor. He heaps pressure on the DUP to keep them honest, and as much as he is a giant pain in most people’s asses, he would be a loss to NI politics. With 13 local councillors, and the prospect of contesting half the 2015 constituencies and their star clearly in the ascendant, I think OfCom’s initial position is on the wrong side of the fence.

    I hope Jimbo does get the platform of a PEB.

  • Not sure that UKIP have performed well in General Elections. Think the Westminster factor relates specifically to by-election performance more recently, and polls. Locally, based on ‘winning elections’ would UUP be credited a PEB based on Westminster ‘performance’?

  • barnshee

    It will actually help Jimbo to be “excluded”– underdog and all that— but best of all he can cry foul “THEY don`t want you to hear me speak the truth” etc etc

  • Joe_Hoggs

    The TUV is an interesting aspect on a whole, the council and recent European elections were clearly a success for the party.

    As much as I like Jim Allister I don’t recognise the TUV as big players or a big party and I cannot see the party making any inroads at a Westminster election or indeed at an Assembley election, therefore Ofcom’s position may well be justified.

  • Jag – but so few of your arguments are quantifiable in terms of previous electoral performance, analysis of share of vote and seats won, along with current opinion polling data.

    > Jimbo’s an impressive bandsman and has form in succinctly and clearly
    lancing anomalies, SPAD and RUC widows’ pensions to name two

    Behaviour not numbers.

    > He is regularly cited at the best politician in Stormont, his questioning and Assembly performances are second to none. When Sammy Wilson is reduced to calling Jimbo a “thug”, you just know Jimbo’s got the political X-Factor. He heaps pressure on the DUP to keep them honest, and as much as he is a giant pain in most people’s asses, he would be a loss to NI politics.

    Subjective, not objective.

    > With 13 local councillors, and the prospect of contesting half the 2015 constituencies and their star clearly in the ascendant,

    A big leap in councillors is certainly in his favour. But while first preference votes were up for Europe, the party’s percentage first prefwas down given the much larger turnout.

    > I think OfCom’s initial position is on the wrong side of the fence.

    I suspect a strong performance in May 2015 would bode well for a different Ofcom decision in 2016.

    And to build on barnshee’s comment – there is probably more publicity to be gained in the months before the campaign in complaining about not being included on the list than there is to be gained having to pay to produce a few minutes of content that will not particularly sway new voters.

  • Jag

    Alain, I concede, previous Assembly and Westminster performances make TUV a micro party. It’s Jimbo’s Euro result in May 2014 and the performance of their councillors which add meat to my argument.

    You mention polling. Other than some widely criticised polling in the BelTel last Oct/Nov (can’t recall exactly), has there been recent polling which you point readers to.

    Jimbo may play the victim card (again) for being denied a PEB but I think he’d get more results with a PEB because it’s a platform ideally suited to a personality (“ego” if you’re being unkind) as big as his.

  • tmitch57

    From the 1970s to the 1990s it was customary for the media to refer to the Big Four (UUP, SDLP, DUP, SF) parties. But with the decline of the UUP and the SDLP since 2001-03 and the rise again of Alliance it makes more sense to speak of the Big Five. Outside of these five parties none of the parties are major parties. Actually I would classify the DUP and SF as major parties, the UUP, SDLP, and Alliance as medium-sized parties and the rest as minor parties.

    While this recognition as an aspect of self-perpetuation of the status quo, it does give voters who aren’t that politically involved clues as to who the major alternative players are. If you are nationalist and don’t like SF there is the SDLP; if you are unionist and don’t like the DUP there is the UUP. The only problem is in the other category, and that has always been problematic because for so long Alliance had a monopoly on the category. In America there is a similar criterion used in determining who gets involved in the presidential debates. Third Party candidates have to demonstrate a minimal level of support in the polls of 10% or 15% for a few weeks before the debates to be included. This helps to entrench the two-party system, but it also protects uninformed voters from wasting their votes on no-hope candidates.

  • Dan

    So, are we to have the five lamentable Government parties having a debate (well, you know what I mean) on UTV or BBCNI without anyone else on a panel to put a dissenting view?
    What a farce.

  • banana man

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Allister in the debates anyone who can land a few blows on Robinson and the DUP will be a welcome sight to me. And as far as I have seen he has (mostly) moved past his old Sinn Fein/IRA act so he is a bit more mature in that respect

  • Scots Anorak

    Odd that OFCOM should exclude the SNP, already the third-largest UK party in membership terms and in with a fair chance of becoming the third-largest party at Westminster, from the Great Britain debates.

    On second thoughts, perhaps it’s not so odd after all.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Ridiculous that Respect and the Greens are excluded while having an MP in England, yet the UKIP can have a say in Scotland’s, Wales and Northern Ireland without even a locally elected assembly or parliament member who had fought on that rosette.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Maybe the SNP could feild candidates in England as the Irish Parliamentary party once did, starting with Berick!

  • Kevin Breslin

    In a PR situation they would have won a two seats on vote percentage

  • Kevin Breslin

    Nine constituencies? He’s probably excluded the party from eight held by nationalists MPs and North Belfast in order to help unionist unity or avoid a deposit loss and some areas like Foyle and West Belfast where it might not find a candidate.
    Strangford would be him at odds with McNarry and East Belfast at odds with the PUP, so really isn’t the traditional unionist voice left with only seven seats to fight in?