12/04/2012 12:36 BST | Updated 13/04/2012 04:36 BST

London Mayoral Election - UKIP Have Peter Stringfellow But It Won't Be Enough To Make An Impact

The decision by long-standing Tory supporter and strip-club owner Peter Stringfellow to support Ukip in the London Mayoral election gives the anti-EU party some much needed publicity. But they'll struggle to achieve the airtime enjoyed by the other candidates for the rest of the election, and for many this is grotesquely unfair.

For some time now some bloggers and Ukip supporters in the London Mayoral Election have been getting increasingly annoyed at the lack of airtime given to their candidate, Lawrence Webb. He hasn't been invited to any of the hustings, even though Green candidate Jenny Jones has.

Ukip don't appear to be taking part in the next sets of hustings - including a high-profile debate on Sky News on the 19th of April.

This, say some, is outrageous because Ukip regularly has a much higher opinion poll rating in national polls than the Greens.

What's happened is that those inviting candidates to the hustings have gone on the number of seats each party has in the London Assembly. The Green party had two members in the last Assembly - one of whom was Jenny Jones. Ukip had none.

Andrew Hawkins, chairman of opinion pollsters ComRes, says Ukip's candidate is on course to make almost no impression in the poll in 3 May poll.

"We did ask about the UKIP candidate in the recent polls and they don't register very much," he told HuffPost UK. "They get 1% of first preferences and 7% of second preferences - at least among those who've told us they're likely to to vote."

By contrast the Greens are currently on 4% and the Lib Dems are on 6% of first-preference votes for mayor. But is this because Jenny Jones and Brian Paddick actually get air-time? Andrew Hawkins from ComRes thinks two things are working against Ukip.

"With this sort of electoral system, I think it's even harder than in a national general election to get much airtime at all, because it's all about Boris versus Ken, with Brian Paddick in there with a tactical angle because it's important how his second preferences get carved up."

Few people seem to realise that once a candidate is eliminated in the early rounds of results - as UKIP surely will be - any second preference votes cast for them become null and void.

"The problem is that people don't vote in a way which maximises the effectiveness of their vote," says Hawkins. "If people wanted to vote tactically they'd think much more about how they use their vote. As it is, they tend to make their first preference vote and distribute their largesse on second preferences to a minor candidate, not realising that their second preference has been wasted."

"But the way the media's covering the election, it's very difficult for any minor candidate, and even really Brian Paddick, to get any kind of a look-in at all."

Barring a change in the way the broadcasters decide whom to invite for their hustings, UKIP will continue to suffer in this way unless people start voting for them in the London Assembly. This doesn't seem likely to happen at the moment. As Conservative Home noted the other day, European issues don't appear to have much impact when people cast their vote in the Assembly.

Another problem for Ukip appears to be their policies - as Metro reported on Thursday, quite a lot of what they are pledging has little or nothing to do with the actual powers of the Mayor.

Is it that Londoners don't want to throw away their vote on a whim of protest, or is it that people don't understand how the system actually works? Whatever the cause, the rows about Ukip being frozen out of the London Mayoral election form part of a wider narrative, which concerns a perceived threat to the Tories from Ukip in future elections.

Tim Montgomerie from Conservative Home has become the latest voice to air concerns that the Tories' engagement in Lib Dem policies within the coalition could cost them enough votes to UKIP at the next election to make a difference.

Writing in The Times this week, Montgomerie worried:

Mr Farage’s party doesn’t have to get 11 or even 8 per cent to make it hard for the Tories to win the next election. At the last election, when UKIP won 3 per cent of the vote, there were 21 constituencies where the UKIP vote was greater than the Tories’ losing margin. It would be wrong to assume that if there hadn’t been a UKIP candidate all of these votes would have gone to the Conservative candidate — UKIP has always attracted a ragbag of unhappy Labour, Lib Dem, Tory, BNP and stay-at-homers. Nonetheless UKIP certainly cost the Conservative Party at least six seats at the last election and possibly ten.

Others believe that Ukip is a "nightmare" for the Tories, and that Chancellor George Osborne is privately worried about the effect they might have on the 2015 election.

Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at the University of Sussex, has been engaged in a bit of an online spat lately about whether Ukip really can make a breakthrough - in any British election other than those to the European Parliament.

"I can see that it's natural for some on the right wing of the Conservative party to alarm fellow tories about the possibility of Ukip stealing votes from the party, because they want to anchor the party in a more right-wing eurosceptic agenda," he said.

"But whether there is a realistic prospect of Ukip taking a couple of seats or making enough difference in a constituency to deprive a Tory of their seat is a very moot point.

"If you think about Respect and the Green party, there's something about the demographics in the seats of they've got. Ukip's' vote is more attitudinal than social, so it's hard to think about a particular constituency like Brighton Pavilion or Bradford West which was very skewed towards grumpy middle aged men."