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Legal action threatened against ITV over exclusion of Green Party from debate

Lawyers acting on behalf of the Green Party threaten to take legal action if ITV excludes them from future general election debate

1 December 2014

ITV have been threatened by legal action following the decision to include UKIP whilst excluding the Green Party in a forthcoming TV debate in the run up to the General Election.

Leigh Day have written to ITV News threatening legal action if the Green party continues to be excluded from plans to feature the main parties in debates on the main political topics. Support for the Green Party is currently around 6-7%, often higher than the Liberal Democrats.

In the letter Leigh Day, warn: “Despite the exchanges between the broadcasters and the Green party it is still entirely unclear what criteria you have relied on to make your decision, and your precise reasons.” They have asked the broadcaster for their reasons for excluding the Green Party in writing and also seek a date by which a final decision must be made.

The letter sent to Chris Wissun, director of programme compliance for ITV, adds:

“The purpose of your debate is not simply to hear the prime minister and the leader of the opposition debate, but to hear the views of a broader range of party leaders, representing the range of parties standing large numbers of candidates across the country at the forthcoming general election. Indeed, this is hardly a controversial position. The prime minister has supported inclusion of the Green party in your proposed debate.”

Leigh Day claims polling for more than a year “has shown the old two/three party system has broken down”. The letter argues: “There is a move from the traditional parties to new and more radical alternatives – which include both Ukip and the Green party. Your role is to make sure that all of the range of views which substantial sections of the public are considering voting for are understood.”

It adds: “Our clients are preparing to commission some polling with an independent polling organisation to find out whether your viewers would wish to have a five-leader debate, including the Green party. We would invite you to agree the questions with us to ensure that you were content that they will produce a fair and reliable result. Our clients will be in contact with you to agree the questions shortly.”

It stresses: “Our client would very much like to resolve this matter without recourse to litigation. However, if your current stance remains in effect, the Green party may be forced to pursue a claim. We assume that you intend to keep this issue under review as negotiations with the other parties continue.”

Green party membership now stands at 27,086 – up 96% since 1 January 2014. At current sign-up rates, approximately 1,000 members are signing up per week and a new member is joining every 10 minutes.

Richard Stein, partner in the Human Rights team at Leigh Day, said: “We believe that the decision to exclude the Green Party is not only unlawful but also illogical, made even more so by the invitation to UKIP for them to participate.”

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