Political parties on the increase

Sixty-one new political parties were registered by the elections watchdog in 2004, a rise of 13 per cent on 2003.

The figures were released by the Electoral Commission ahead of the March 30 deadline for registering political parties ahead of the local elections.

They also show that a further 28 political parties have signed up since January 2005.

The commission said almost half of the new parties were primarily single issue based or special interest groups.

The increase in registration appeared to go against the widespread view of mass political apathy in the UK, commission CEO Peter Wardle added.

The growth in political party registration was a “positive” indicator of the “health” of British democracy, he said.

“The rate and rise of single issue parties in particular suggests that far from being a nation plagued by political apathy, people in the UK are feeling increasingly engaged about issues that most affect their everyday lives,” he added.

The commission said the South East saw the greatest number of registrations, with London sprouting a fifth (21 per cent) of new entrants.

Earlier this month, a Mori poll commissioned by the Electoral Commission and Hansard Society found 77 per cent of respondents were interested in national issues, with eight out of ten interested in local issues.

But only 53 per cent said they found party politics interesting.

Parties wishing to fight a possible May 5 general election have until April 11 to register.