THE BLOG

The Green Party Must Get a Fair Hearing From Ofcom and Broadcasters

08/01/2015 15:39 GMT | Updated 10/03/2015 09:59 GMT

Today Ofcom, an unelected quango, issued a draft ruling that has the potential to have a significant impact on the coming general election campaign: it declared Ukip a "major party", while denying the Green Party the same status, basing its argument chiefly on "past electoral performance".

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).

One notable aspect of this morning's draft ruling is that it focuses heavily on "past electoral support". You might almost think that Ofcom wants to freeze British politics in a past age - the age of neo-liberal, Thatcherite ideals.

Now I don't tend towards conspiracy theories, so I don't think there's a 'plot' to do that - but 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.

These are the same people who I regularly meet who think wanting to bring the railways back into public hands is a radical idea (despite the fact that this policy is backed by a huge majority of the public and would bring such a vast improvement in the experience of our rail passengers), who also think similarly about making the minimum wage a living wage, even though this would help ensure that millions more people are paid a wage they can build a life around. By dismissing these ideas, they're dismissing the possibility that we can make real improvements to our economy and society and build a better future for Britain.

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.

But Ofcom's ruling risks excluding this alternative voice.

Younger voters in particular could be hit by Ofcom's judgement. A Youth Insight poll last month put the Green Party as the second choice among students, the first time any party beyond the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems had been in this poll's top three. YouGov puts support among under-25s at 19%. The youth-focused Leader's Live events, in which Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage and I have taken part saw the Green Party policies clearly winning the strongest support.

The engagement of young people in the political process is vital for the legitimacy of this election and the future of our democracy. Young voters have every right to have their views represented and explored in the mainstream media.

At many events I attend, from Occupy protests to meetings on university campuses and sixth form colleges, young people say to me that they feel utterly let down by our current democratic process, by media coverage that fails to represent their views or even explore the issues affecting them, and by the first-past-the-post electoral system which heavily distorts support for the "established" parties.

We need to include them, not leave them thinking that democracy isn't meant for them. In fact, we need to include everyone and make sure major strands of political thinking are given an airing at this election - particularly as millions continue to suffer as a result of the government's economic agenda and cuts. The Green Party must get a fair hearing from Ofcom and the broadcasters.