POLITICS

Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett Hits Out At Ofcom's Election Debate Verdict

08/01/2015 15:31 GMT | Updated 08/01/2015 15:59 GMT
Nick Ansell/PA Wire
File photo dated 15/12/14 of Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales Natalie Bennett, who has denied claims that she said being poor in India was not as bad as being on benefits in Britain.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has said she is "deeply disappointed" after media regulator Ofcom said it believed the Green party was not important enough to be included in the televised general election debates.

In a consultation released on Thursday, Ofcom said it did not think the Greens qualified as a "major party" that should be included, however it said Ukip "may qualify for major party status in England and Wales”, despite its failure to demonstrate "demonstrated significant past electoral support in General Elections”.

The decision is a blow to Bennett's party, as those classed as "major parties" are allowed at least two party election broadcasts in the run-up to the general election. However, Ofcom could still change its view, as its initial assessment marks the start of a consultation that runs until 5 February.

Bennett reacted with fury to Ofcom's initial judgement in a blog for The Huffington Post UK, writing: "Obviously, as leader of the Green Party, I'm deeply disappointed by this decision, but as a voter and citizen I'm also gravely concerned about the possible impact on British democracy if this stance is maintained in the final guidance.

"Ofcom is not only ignoring the views of the 275,000 people who signed the petition calling for the Greens to be included in the broadcasters' proposed leaders' debates, but also the evidence that 79% of the public want to see us in those debates (and 85% of women)."

She went on: "I do think we have people in positions of power who have very fixed ideas about what politics looks and sounds like, think that it's a basically an unchanging wrestle between the traditional big two, with a couple of satellites that squeeze into the gaps without really saying anything different.

"When you put together the support for the Green Parties of England and Wales, and Scotland, and Northern Ireland, with those for the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, there's very strong backing for an anti-austerity alternative to the Coalition-Labour approach, as Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and I pointed out last month."

This comes after Labour frontbencher Sadiq Khan backed calls for the Greens to be included in the election debates, telling the New Statesman: "What the British public deserve to see is all the leaders, and that includes Natalie Bennett, by the way, having a debate about their vision for the country, their analysis of the last five years, an explanation from Cameron and Clegg how the deficit is still £200bn more than they predicted."

Ofcom's decision has raised eyebrows as the Greens have already started to post better poll ratings than the Lib Dems.

Research for Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft put the party on a new high of 8% - up three points - and just ahead of the Lib Dems on 7%.

See more on the 2015 General Election here