22:35 GMT +317 February 2019
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    UKIP and televised debates

    UKIP: How Major is it?

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    UKIP have been recognised by the UK media regulator, Ofcom, as a 'major party' alongside the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. UKIP will therefore most probably feature in the 2015 general election televised debates. What effect could Ofcom's decision have on the election result?

    Firstly even in Ofcom's discussion of Nigel Farage's party, they seem to have doubts over their credibility as a real force in the upcoming election.

    Ofcom stated: "UKIP has not demonstrated significant past electoral support in previous general elections, achieving 3.5% of the vote in 2010 and has not won a parliamentary seat at a general election.

    "Opinion poll data indicates that UKIP currently has significant levels of support in England and Wales and has the third highest rating in those polls after the Conservative and Labour parties. Opinion poll data in Scotland shows lower levels of current support."

    Ofcom qualifies their view of UKIP becoming a popular party, notably only in England, with the fact that they have no history of winning a seat at a general election.

    "Ukip's performance in a number of other significant forms of election has, however, been stronger. Notably, UKIP has won two seats in parliament at recent by-elections.

    However that will undoubtedly change when May comes around. Although some political commentators are sceptical as to whether the change of status to 'major party' will translate to any significant change to UKIP's performance at the ballot box.

    The most unpredictable election

    Dr Alex Smith, assistant professor of sociology and senior research fellow at Warwick University said: "It is set to be one of the most unpredictable elections in recent years.

    "I doubt being recognised as a major party will change anything and I doubt we will see a lot of UKIP seats won, in fact I think they will have a tough enough time holding on to the two they have gained nationally in by-elections.

    "But what will be interesting is to see the extent they effectively help Labour by taking votes away from the Conservatives.

    "So in a number of the seats which may be considered 'safe', we may actually see the margin cut considerably."

    Dr Smith's predictions could be seen as quite conservative but he clearly believes UKIP to be a 'minor' force in British politics.

    However political analyst for Huffington Post, Rob Bell is far more vociferous in his critique of Nigel Farage and UKIP, branding the leader a "useful idiot" and saying: "By helping with every utterance to create an atmosphere where xenophobia, contempt for the poor, racism and hatred of the UK's Muslim community is increasingly acceptable, Farage is performing an important service for right wing Conservative MPs who would love to dispense with Tony Blair clone David Cameron and put someone more suitable in charge. And he has even taken a couple of the more gormless and embarrassingly indiscreet Tory backbenchers off their hands.

    Lurch to the right

    "By facilitating a lurch to the right by a leadership resembling that of Blair in all but name, Farage is helping lead Cameron to the guillotine and creating an ideal scenario for the Tory right, where the only segment of British society who actually vote are guaranteed to do so on the basis of being furious about exactly what they've been spoon-fed — a perceived disintegration of the country due to the poor and foreigners."

    Both commentators' views are not entirely dissimilar but rather just expressed in quite different ways. Rob Bell's piercing language represents just how deeply UKIP and Farage manage to get under the skin of British voters either negatively in this case or positively in the case of the parties many supporters.

    It is easy to shrug off the fact that UKIP won't win many seats at the next election as proof that they are not a 'major party', but even playing such roles as mentioned above surely make them much more than just a 'minor party'.