The BBC has a Green blind spot
It was a perhaps sceptical response to not be surprised when the BBC Trust announced it was to exclude the Green Party from being granted a party political broadcast, while UKIP is to be given three. However the behaviour of the BBC and OFCOM continue to show that when it comes to politics, they have a blind spot for the Green Party.
It is not long ago incredibly arbitrary guidelines were drawn up to exclude the Green Party from the leaders’ debates, whilst granting Farage’s party an unheralded level of access. Then and now there are three fundamental issues with the way OFCOM and the BBC sets its criteria.
1) UKIP and the Greens each gained 1 seat in the last election, but this does not reflect either party’s actual level of support
It seems quickly forgotten that UKIP and the Greens gained exactly the same amount of seats in the last election (and indeed Caroline Lucas garnered a larger majority in Brighton than Douglas Carwell did in Clacton). The same flawed first past the post electoral system collectively stymied the will of 5 million Green & UKIP voters.
Rightfully the BBC Trust has recognised that arbitrary limits on number of MPs shouldn’t define the coverage of a political party. However this embrace of proportionality hasn’t translated into proportional allocation of party political broadcasts. The BBC needs to make clear as to whether it’s criterion for due coverage is down to actual electoral success (in which case the Greens & UKIP should be treated equally) or wider support. On that direct point…
2) Coverage of the Liberal Democrats seems to be based on tradition rather than electoral realities
The Liberal Democrats’ election results in 2015 were the worst results for 45 years. Neither in terms of seats in the house or votes in the country could they be seen as the country’s third party. However that is a reality that seems to have passed many media outlets.
If both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats are to be given three party broadcasts it again generates questions on BBC’s criteria. If broader support is the main criteria for being granted coverage what’s the cut off for inclusion? Why is the increasing popularity of the Scottish Greens and the decay of the Scottish Lib Dems (both in electoral success in Holyrood and popular support) irrelevant? Are recent polls showing the Liberal Democrats and the Greens tied or within the margin of error relevant? The lack of transparency and hodgepodge of various criteria for inclusion does not inspire confidence.
3) In a year with the EU referendum the last EU elections should be incredibly relevant
This country faces a hugely pivotal election on our membership in the EU. It’s a referendum that whatever the result will have a long term impact on UK’s role in the world. With such an important decision to be made the BBC should be giving coverage to political parties that have demonstrated success in the European Elections.
The last 2014 elections had the Green Party finish ahead of the Liberal Democrats and gain 3 MEPs versus 1 for the Lib Dems. In those elections, 1.1 million people voted Green. The electorate has demonstrated clearly it wants Green representation in the European Parliament. It seems senseless to deny the same party a voice in the year of the EU referendum.
Overall the process for deciding inclusion of political parties seems wholly unsatisfactory. Unlike European democracies or indeed the U.S. we do not have clearly distinguished well-reasoned criteria on which parties should be granted coverage. The lack of transparency of why certain parties are excluded also makes it hard to challenge those decisions when they are dubious. The BBC should urgently review their decision. If you do agree, you can sign the petition here.