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Last Updated: Friday, 2 January, 2004, 12:05 GMT
UKIP and Greens gear up for vote

By Ben Davies
BBC News Online's political staff

The Greens and the UK Independence Party are hoping to build on their European election successes of 1999 in the coming year's vote. Six months before the June 2004 elections, former Clinton advisor Dick Morris has been putting his experience to work for UKIP.

His view is that Britain needs to be freed from the "pernicious" influence of the European Union, claiming continental Europe is less free than the UK.

He added that UKIP, which he now advises, would have an "enormous, potent showing" in the forthcoming poll.

Meanwhile the Green Party is also optimistic about its chances of defending past successes and building on them.

Both parties are also looking toward to local elections in England and Wales as well as the poll for the London mayor and assembly - all of which are being held on 10 June.

Aiming for six

Green spokesman Spencer Fitz-Gibbon points out that his party already has two MEPs.

If UKIP get 20% then people will 'drop dead' all over the continent
Dick Morris

He told BBC News Online that it hopes to have six MEPs by next year and boost its presence in local government by 20%.

Morris meanwhile - who advised Bill Clinton for 20 years - said: "UKIP is going to have an enormous, potent showing and do very well because the British have been denied any other method of stop or slow down the EU."

Currently the party holds three seats in the European Parliament.

"The UKIP slogan is 'How do you spell 'no' in English?'" Morris says.

"People are being denied a say, they are upset and they have no method of expressing it except for voting for UKIP.

"If the Conservatives do well people will say 'Blair's on the ropes, Howard could win a general election' but they won't say 'it's about Europe'. But if UKIP get 20% then people will 'drop dead' all over the continent."

Cash incentive?

Asked why he was backing a party which wants the UK to withdraw from the European Union, he said: "UKIP is expressing a view I hold - I'm certainly not doing it for the money.

Dick Morris
Dick Morris advised Bill Clinton for 20 years and now backs UKIP
"It's the prerogative of a tiny party that has no real prospect of winning power to serve as a pressure group. It's a symbolic party and a symbolic vote for a symbolic body.

"The way people feel about Europe is a bit like volcanic emissions - if they don't find an outlet it'll blow the top off the mountain."

"The biggest danger in the world is not from terrorism but from 'bureaucratism'."

He says the world's institutions are being run by a small elite.

Labour of love?

And he argues that the EU in particular has a strategy which has nothing to do with democracy and isolates policy makers from public opinion.

"This is a labour of love for me: democracy not bureaucracy."

We expect to end 2004 with significantly more elected representatives
Spencer Fitz-Gibbons
He went on to claim the mantle of Lafayette, who went over from France to fight in the American revolution against British rule.

Morris says his views are also formed because he believes the UK/US relationship is "vital".

"The influence Europe is having on the world is pernicious."

Fitz-Gibbon's approach to the forthcoming elections is based less on making a splash than on steadily building on past Green successes.

Green makeover

"We'll be starting 2004 with an image makeover - presenting the Greens as the party of real progress, including a much more modern look and a redesigned website," he said.

Darren Johnson
Darren Johnson is a member of the London Assembly and Green mayoral candidate
"We expect to end 2004 with significantly more elected representatives, a much higher public profile and a lot more members."

In addition to their two MEPs they have three members on the London Assembly and 43 local councillors spread across 26 primary authorities.

"As well as successfully defending our existing seats in the European Parliament and the London Assembly, we're confident we can increase our number of AMs and return probably six MEPs.

"We're aiming for a 20% increase in local councillors to build on hard-won recent breakthroughs in places like Manchester and York and successes in places like Bradford and Brighton, Lancaster and Leeds, Norwich and Oxford."

'Difficult call'

Parties like the Greens and UKIP may find they benefit from a mid-term protest vote against the government - especially in the wake of the Iraq war.

But BBC Head of Political Research David Cowling says how they will do in terms of seats is a "difficult call to make".

The UK loses nine from its original 87 seats - this loss plays against the smaller parties which tend to mop up the last seat in a region
David Cowling
BBC political research chief
On the one hand smaller parties benefit from the proportional representation system used in European elections.

But Cowling says there are two potential problems for UKIP and the Green Party.

He said: "Firstly, turnout in 1999 was 23% and it is likely to be higher in June 2004 because the government has combined the European with local and London elections all on the same day.

UK losing seats

"Smaller parties tend to blossom with lower turnouts i.e. fewer votes are required to win the available seats. It does not follow automatically that higher turnout disadvantages smaller parties but that's the way to bet.

"Secondly, as part of the arrangements to accommodate the 10 new countries which join the EU by the time of the next election, existing countries have to lose seats.

"The UK loses nine from its original 87 seats. This loss plays against the smaller parties which tend to mop up the last seat in a region.

"Fewer seats in a region means that the quota of votes required to win a seat will be higher and this sets a tougher target for smaller parties to reach.

"Once again this does not mean that they cannot win seats but it does make it more difficult for them to do so."

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