It was twenty years ago today - give or take a few days - that a man stood in the Elections Office at Manchester Town Hall, brandishing a set of nomination papers and a bag containing £1000 in pound coins. That was me, standing for the Green party in the 1989 European elections, for what was then the Greater Manchester Central Euro-Constituency. That year the Greens polled 2.3 million votes, an average of around 15% and won how many seats? Zero, nil, nada, diddly-squat. That's first-past-the post for you.
I was at the very same place a few days ago to submit the nominations for this years European election candidates. We now have a proportional system for European elections, but that still doesn't make it easy for us. The system seems to have been designed to give proportional representation a bad name, combining large regions with no local element and a high threshold for victory.
It seems that this year the Electoral Commission have made our task even harder. Parties are listed on the ballot paper alphabetically so where would you expect to find the Green Party? Under 'G' for Green? sadly not - I have been informed that our officially registered name is 'The Green Party' and so we will be positioned under 'T' for 'The'. Actually, even this is wrong - our name as recorded on the Electoral Commission website is 'Green Party [The]'; so 'G' is where we should be even with this ruling.
The ballot paper will therefore start with an outfit who shall be nameless but begin with a 'B'. Your eyes will then move on past more conventional Parties like the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, and this years fly-by-nights like 'Jury Team', 'Libertas' and 'No2EU', and if you persevere, will eventually reach 'The Green Party' and 'The Labour Party' (who are similarly afflicted), with UKIP bringing up the rear. Whilst there may be some benefit in coming higher up the paper anyway, the biggest risk I fear is that voters who aren't sure if we're standing or not (in areas where we usually haven't the resources to stand)will look for us under 'G', think we're not standing, and vote for someone else. This is less of a problem for the Labour Party - their supporters will be sure they're there and search till they find them.
Both logic and fairness should dictate that the definite article in a Party Name is not relevant, and that a Party should be positioned where electors would expect to see it. I hope this will be overturned but we are dealing with bureaucracy here.