Nigel Farage speaks at the UKIP 2014 Spring Conference at the Riviera International on March 1, 2014 in Torquay. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Ukip named as a “major party” by Ofcom for European elections

The decision means the party will now be entitled to equal levels of TV coverage as the other main parties.

Ahead of the European elections on 22 May, Ofcom has announced that broadcasters will be required to treat Ukip as a “major party” for the contest. The significance of this decision is that it will now be entitled to an equal amount of Party Election Broadcasts (PEBs) as Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems. The ruling, however, will not apply to Scotland-only programming due to Ukip’s low level of support in the country. Here’s the Ofcom statement in full: 

We have consulted on an appropriate approach for determining the composition of the list of major parties ahead of the elections taking place on 22 May 2014.

Our decision is that the United Kingdom Independence Party (“UKIP”) should be added to the list of major parties in England and in Wales for the 2014 European Parliament elections.

The practical effect of this decision is as follows:

  • Broadcasters transmitting PEBs on a UK/Great Britain-wide basis (such as Channel 5 in the European Parliamentary elections) will be obliged to treat UKIP as a major party across the whole of England, Wales and Scotland (ie Great Britain) as a whole.
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  • STV will not be required to treat UKIP as a major party for the purposes of broadcasting Scotland-only PEBs. This reflects the fact that UKIP has low levels of support in Scotland. However, ITV Wales will have to treat UKIP as a major party for the purposes of broadcasting Wales-only PEBs, reflecting the fact that UKIP has significant levels of support in Wales 
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  • In news and current affairs election programming that focuses on the European Parliamentary elections across England, Wales and Scotland (i.e. Great Britain) as a whole, UKIP will be treated as a major party across the whole of England, Wales and Scotland (i.e. Great Britain). However, in news and current affairs election programming that focuses on the European Parliamentary elections in just Scotland, UKIP will not be treated as a major party in such programming.

The decision will intensify the debate over whether Ukip should be regarded as a major party for the 2015 general election. While it has no MPs (in contrasts to its nine MEPs), some will argue that it should be included on the list if it continues to lead the Lib Dems in most opinion polls (and Ofcom appears to have taken its current poll ratings into account). Were Ukip to be classified as a major party, it would make it far harder (and even impossible) to exclude Nigel Farage from any TV leaders’ debates. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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