The Green Party is now claiming that it should be included on televised debates in the run-up to the next General Election. The argument seems to be that Ukip has one MP, so do the Greens, and therefore they should be treated equally.
Let's recap for a moment. The current proposal is for three debates. In one, just Labour and the Conservatives are expected to take part. In another, they will be joined by the Liberal Democrats and in a third the UK Independence Party gets its chance as well.
Con/Lab - three debates each
Lib Dem - two debates
Ukip - one debate
So, what's the best way of judging fairness? I think everyone would agree that the Conservatives and Labour have to take part in all the debates. Now, what about the other parties - Ukip, the Lib Dems and Greens? Who has the best claim?
1. Vote share in 2010
Lib Dems did far better than Ukip, who in turn did far better than the Greens.
2. Seats in Parliament
The Lib Dems have dozens of Parliamentary seats. UKIP have one (soon to be two, if opinion polls are correct) and the Greens have one.
3. Recent local election results
At the local elections in 2013 and 2014, Ukip outperformed the Liberal Democrats and the Greens by a substantial margin. The Liberal Democrats hold more Council seats than UKIP, however. The Greens are substantially behind on both measures.
4. Recent European election results
Ukip took 24 seats at the European elections. The Greens took three, and the Liberal Democrats one. Ukip became the first party outside Conservatives and Labour for a century to win a national set of elections. The Lib Dems' vote share, however, exceeded that of the Greens despite winning fewer seats.
5. Current public opinion
At the time of writing, across all polling companies Ukip is averaging around 17%, the Lib Dems around 9% and the Greens around 4% in polling for the next General Election.
6. Parliamentary by-election results
Again, on this measure Ukip is far ahead of the Lib Dems and Greens. Indeed, Ukip's aggregate vote over the last two years compares favourably with Conservatives and Labour as well. The Liberal Democrats have lost 10 deposits since the last General Election.
7. UK-wide representation
Ukip has representation at regional level or above in all four nations of the United Kingdom. The Liberal Democrats do not have representation in Northern Ireland. The Greens have such representation only in England (the Scottish Greens are a separate entity).
Essentially, the Lib Dem case is four and a half years old - but as historic arguments go, it's a pretty strong one. They are in Coalition and took in excess of 20% of the vote at the last General Election.
The Ukip case is more recent, but compelling because of its breadth. Across all types of election and all polling data since 2012, Ukip has shown itself to be at least the match of the Lib Dems - and in most cases, higher.
The Green Party case is limited by comparison. They match Ukip in one area alone, the number of MPs. They match the Lib Dems in one area alone, the European elections. On all other measures they are beaten hands down by both other parties.
What does this mean overall? Ukip and the Lib Dems have similar cases for inclusion in televised debates. The Greens have something of a case, but it's a weak one because they fall short in most other areas. This is also borne out by the Party memberships - estimated to be between 40,000 and 45,000 for Ukip and Lib Dems and 21,000 for the Greens.
It's clear that there are now at least three tiers of parties rather than just the major/minor Party distinction that there once was. The Greens do have a case to be included in something, but it must be dramatically less than UKIP. The SNP, Plaid Cymru and Northern Irish parties should have involvement indy debates purely in their own countries, possibly to be aired simultaneously.
This might be better reflected by participation in debates in England as follows:
Conservatives / Labour - three
Ukip / Liberal Democrats - two
Green Party - one
And if only current support, not legacy support from 2010, were taken into account then Ukip would have to move up still further to have Nigel Farage in every debate.
When Nick Griffin went on Question Time for the BNP, it was the beginning of the end for his party. His awful performance and inability to deal with key issues signalled a downward spiral. Likewise, I think the Greens' half-baked and borderline-extremist policy could be exposed quite badly by other parties in debate.
Personally I'd like the Greens to be held up to greater scrutiny in some way; nobody seems to ever bother to look at their policies or what they stand for. The idea that 'they have the word Green in their name, so they must be nice' just won't cut it. For all their weasel words about democracy, look at these policies from their website:
"MG201 We believe that the world's people have an individual and collective responsibility to ensure ecological sustainability, human rights and social justice. Within this, they have the right to self-determination."
So they believe in the right to self-determination, to democracy, to be allowed to govern ourselves - provided we subscribe to the Green Party's definitions of 'ecological sustainability', 'human rights' and 'social justice'.
What if you support nuclear energy, clean coal or fracking? What if you believe, as I do and as the British government claims to, that prisoners should not have the right to vote? ECHR judges have told us that such a ban is incompatible with human rights. The phrase 'social justice' speaks of redistributive taxation, a large welfare state and regulation of markets amongst other things.
Basically, under the Green Party you'd be entitled to a say in how the country is run - provided you agree with the Green Party about how the country should be run.
Then there are the policies that are just completely unrealistic and unworkable - for example:
"MG405 Migrants illegally in the UK for over five years will be allowed to remain unless they pose a serious danger to public safety."
It's an open invitation to anyone to come into the UK illegally and evade the system - if they can hide long enough, they'll be allowed to jump the queue to come to the UK and leapfrog those who came here legally.
They want to phase out eating meat by re-educating us:
"AR410 The Green Party will support a progressive transition from diets dominated by meat and other animal products to healthier diets based on plant foods, through the use of research, education and economic measures."
They want to give everyone benefits - enough to live on, even if you don't want to work:
"EC730 A Citizen's Income sufficient to cover an individual's basic needs will be introduced, which will replace tax-free allowances and most social security benefits. A Citizen's Income is an unconditional, non-withdrawable income payable to each individual as a right of citizenship. It will not be subject to means testing and there will be no requirement to be either working or actively seeking work."
Think it through: if the entire population could afford to just not go to work, what would the consequence be for the economy?
"EC771 The Green Party would phase out VAT over a period of time and replace it with a system of environmental taxation measures ("eco-taxes")."
VAT is applied on (almost) everything at a rate of 20%. How do they think they can raise that much through eco-taxes? Rates would have to be punitively high - which would just stop those activities from happening, destroy businesses and leave a massive black hole in the public finance.
Now, add to these economic policies their recent announcement that they want a minimum wage of £10 per hour. Based on a 40-hour working week, that would make the minimum wage just short of £21,000 per annum. Compare this, say, with the starting salary of a teacher. After spending generally three years at university plus a year training, racking up tens of thousands of pounds in debt, they begin with a salary of £22,000 a year. They'd be just £20 per week better off - before tax - than minimum wage. It's the ultimate recipe for inflation. Businesses would be going bust left, right and centre.
"CJ356 The Green Party recognise that domestic abuse can have wide ranging impacts, affecting whole families and neighbourhoods. Where children are living in households where there is physical abuse among partners, the children can often also be at risk of physical abuse, and witnessing abuse can have long-term psychological damage. We will expand access to counselling is for all those affected by domestic abuse, the victims, the witnesses and the perpetrators. This is the most effective way of reducing re-offending and breaking cycles of offending within family and neighbourhood networks."
That's right, they believe that those who commit abuse should be offered counselling...
"CJ382 For the vast majority of women in the criminal justice system, solutions in the community are more appropriate. Community sentences must be designed to take account of women's particular vulnerabilities and domestic and childcare commitments. The restrictions placed on sentencers around breaches of community orders must be made more flexible."
The Greens are quite open about wanting a sexist criminal justice policy (and they're tilting at windmills in any case - just 5% of prisoners in British jails are women). Rather odd, for a Party which makes much of its belief in non-discrimination.
"CJ391 Young People under the age of 18 would no longer be kept in custody."
This bold statement doesn't take into account the nature of the offence: for those who have committed rape and murder for example, how can the Greens possibly argue that this would make society safer?
The Green Party's policies - uncosted - represent a very dangerous world view. They lie at the extreme of British politics, but hide behind an environmentalist agenda as a smokescreen to distract from their neo-communist beliefs.
I suspect most Green Party members have never read their policies; I quoted MG201 to one of their activists after a debate. He looked blankly at me, and then told me I must have got it wrong. The Greens, he said, would surely not have a policy like that. But they do, it's on their website and current - last amended in September 2014.
So bring on the debates. Nigel Farage should be in two or three debates, not one - and if that happens, why shouldn't the Greens have a go at one debate? If they have the support to justify it, then however bizarre their beliefs democracy dictates that they should be given the opportunity.