Friday, 7 September 2007

May the fourth be with you?

Witness any post-election coverage long enough and, pound to a penny, you'll eventually get someone from one of any of the outfits from the political non-league boldly declare that their's is now clearly "Britain's fourth largest party". In the 70s this was the NF's fairly plausible statement. In more recent times Scargill's SLP and the Trotskyite SA have also claimed the title (ludicrously if you ask me)

What of today, and what are the criteria? There are certainly a few in the running: UKIP, BNP, Greens, Respect - not forgetting Plaid Cymru or the SNP. To reach an informed answer we've got to take into account things like elected representatives, membership levels, distribution of branches, percentage of vote, number of candidates standing. So, let's get the old microscope out then...(figures are from my slightly addled memory, ladies & gents, even I'm not sad enough to check up properly)

UKIP
9 or 10 MEPs
Membership - 15,000 ish,
Councillors - a handful
Branch distribution - fairly widespread, strongest in South-West, North-East
Last local elections: 1000 candidates

Greens
2 MEPs, 2 London AMs, 2 MSPs, 1 N. Ireland AM (technically Scottish & NI Greens are separate entities, but we won't quibble)
Membership - 7000
Councillors - 110
Branch distribution - Evenly spread. Most towns & cities have a branch
Last local elections: 1400 candidates

BNP
0 MEPs (although they came close last time around)
Membership - 8000
Councillors - 50 odd
Branch distribution - A bit patchy, strongest in north (Yorks/Lancs) & London/Thames estuary
Last local elections: 700 odd

Respect
1 MP (Gorgeous George)
Membership - c. 3000
Councillors - about 20
Branch distribution - A tad patchy. Only real strongholds are London and Brum
Last local elections: Dunno, 2-300, I would've thought

Unsurprising, UKIP polled over 2 million votes in the 2004 Euro's, but they usually poll badly at General elections and even worse at locals.

Greens and BNP are similar vote-wise. Greens got just over a million at the last Euro's with the BNP on their tail with 800,000
At the last General they polled similarly, doing well in places and saving a fair few deposits each, but dive-bombing elsewhere.
At the locals both can poll very well in many places (lots of second places each) but get poor returns elsewhere. obviously with all this this is probably down to how they prioritise target wards and pool resources.

Respect do poorly in most places but can do very well in the fiefdoms. To be honest, I think they've peaked.

It's a difficult one innit? Too close to call, indeed.

MINORITY REPORT
In the first of a series of subcolumns, here's the first instalment of titbits from the outer-limits:

The BNP held an Epping Forest council seat in a by-election last week.

The rump NF's sole parish councillor (vacant seat, Herts) has defected to the BNP

An upcoming council by-election in Brum is to have a BNP candidate up against Keith Axon, a long-time BNP activist, now standing for the breakaway New Nationalist Party. Who said it's only the left that get a touch of the Monty Python's?

And finally...It had to happen - George Galloway has fired a shot across the SWP's bows by circulating a document complaining of disorganisation and domestic anarchy. Expect a split soon