UKIP angry over 'confusing' Euro election name

First we had the candidate for the "Literal Democrats". A name so similar to the Liberal Democrats that just enough voters made a mistake and changed the result.

Now UKIP is complaining to the Electoral Commission about the registration of a party for May's European elections in the South West of England with the name "An Independence from Europe".

Adding the "An Independence.." puts them at the top of the ballot paper in an alphabetical list, whereas the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is at the bottom.

And the tag line below the party name seems set to sow confusion - "UK Independence Now" - is this UKIN, or UKIP?

Gawain Towler, a candidate for UKIP in the South West of England constituency, calls the rival campaign a "deliberate spoiler".

Image caption Parties are listed alphabetically

"It is a transparent attempt to get to the top of the list, but they could have called it the Aardvark Party if they'd just wanted to do that. They're not allowed to pass themselves off as someone else. They are trying to cause as much trouble as they can."

UKIP's chairman Steve Crowther is meeting with Electoral Commission Chair Jenny Watson this afternoon and will complain that the party name was allowed to be registered.

The new party listed as "An Independence from Europe" was formed by former UKIP deputy leader and chairman MEP Mike Natrass who says "UKIP do not have sole right to the word independence".

"I have put down what I believe in, and I have always stood for an independence from Europe. I can't see what I have done wrong."

But UKIP's Gawain Towler accuses Mr Natrass of sour grapes after he was not selected as a candidate for these elections.

Mr Natrass doesn't deny that the contest is personal, blaming UKIP leader Nigel Farage: "Did he expect me just to melt away? No, I am going down with my flag."

Fooling the voters with a name is an old trick.

At the 1997 General Election, Richard Huggett was prevented by court action from standing against Conservative Gerald Malone as "Gerald MacClone". Or in Sussex as the "Official Hove Conservative Candidate".

Labour was also concerned about confusion with splinter Socialist candidates and in 1998 the Tony Blair government changed the law.

Under the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998, any political party can lodge its name and logo with the official registrar at a cost of £150.

In doing so, it is protected from misuse by others and is afforded other rights, such as eligibility, but not entitlement, to a party political broadcast.

When UKIP wanted to register as the Independence Party it was advised this might cause confusion with independent candidates.

Paul Morris, who works for the Borough of Poole Council in Dorset, is the returning officer for the South West constituency and put his signature on the statement of parties and candidates nominated, but says he was not responsible for party names.

"The party has been registered by the Electoral Commission and has also included 12 descriptions that it is able to use on ballot papers. The description "UK Independence Now" is one of the approved descriptions.

"The nomination was validated by myself as the regional returning officer and the party and it's six candidates stand validly nominated for these elections."