Ukip has finally arrived – and all thanks to a ruling from Ofcom

The changes in British politics have been so profound that it makes no sense for coverage to be based on old patterns of electoral support


It’s official: we’re now a major party. How do I know? Well, because Ofcom has said so. After years of being mocked and derided by the Establishment, ignored by the commentariat – unless it was to overreact to some spurious remark made by a member on their Facebook page or a birthday card to their niece – we are now to get equal broadcast coverage ahead of the European elections.

You would have thought that this was a fairly obvious decision for the party which has come third (2004) and second (2009) in previous Euro elections and is being told by journalists who previously classed it in the “others” category that the campaign will be a failure if we don’t win.

We will get at least two broadcasts on ITV and Channel 5, twice as many as in the past, as well as an “appropriate” share of news coverage. What the editorial line will be on that news coverage, of course, is still down to the Westminster Commentariat, who like to pretend that Ukip is still on the fringes despite coming second in the last six national by-elections across the country.

Ofcom’s decision was also influenced by our poll ratings, which only a few years ago were firmly in the single figures for local and general elections, but are now heading towards the 20s. But this ruling does not cover the local elections, despite Ukip making a major breakthrough in the county elections last year.

This strikes me as wrong, given that the poll ratings which feature in newspapers and television programmes each week are based on general support for the party across the UK and are not specifically related to the European elections. If they were, I’d expect there to be only three parties with “major” status and the Liberal Democrats relegated to a fringe.

The changes in British politics have been so profound that it makes no sense for coverage to be based on patterns of electoral support that pertained four years ago. Ukip is a major player now, but a glance at the Liberal Democrat by-election figures and their national polling shows that they are in serious trouble.

The Liberal Democrats know that they are in trouble, too. That is why Nick Clegg challenged me to these debates on our membership of the EU. Believe me, if they felt that they had any other choice but to highlight just how pro-Brussels they are and give Ukip air-time, they would have taken it.

Now Ofcom has made this statement, I wonder if David Cameron will be any more inclined to keep another pledge he made – although I know doing so is not his favourite pastime! Back in 2010, when the agreements for coalition were being drawn up, it was decided that, as an interim measure ahead of House of Lords reform, the appointment of new peers would reflect the vote secured by the political parties in the previous general election.

This would mean that out of the 724 members of the House of Lords, Ukip should have 23. We currently only have three, none of them directly appointed as Ukip Lords but instead those who have joined us as sitting members. We are already the party with the largest popular vote to get no MPs – because of the voting system – and the Government will do everything it can to stop us having representation in the upper chamber, too.

It’s not just Tories we’re poaching

I was delighted to take part in an Evening Standard event on Monday evening which discussed immigration. After a day of admin and meetings, it was a pleasure to get down to what I really enjoy: a good old debate. I was on the panel with Tessa Jowell and David Lammy and we were really getting our teeth into the issues of unskilled jobs, salaries and economic liberalisation when a man in the audience stood up to ask a question. He was originally from Shropshire but is now living in London and is a member of the Labour Party. He wanted to ask my two Labour co-panellists why “the Labour Party does not stand up for working-class people any more”.

The results from Populus today confirm this, and how far the received wisdom has got our supporters completely wrong. The average Ukip voter is a man from the Midlands on a pretty average salary, not a retired half-colonel in Wiltshire. This is because it is the working classes who have been most affected by mass, uncontrolled immigration and because they can see that Ukip are the only ones offering to do anything about it. The latest migration figures show that the increase is coming from inside the EU, where we have no controls; and, given the direction in which I believe the eurozone is heading, I anticipate that this trend will continue.

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