Nigel Farage
Ukip set to become 'major political party' - official Reuters

Ukip have been handed a major general election boost which guarantees the anti-EU party airtime on major TV and radio channels.

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has declared the purple-hued army led by Nigel Farage a "major political party."

The label does not become official until March and is also dependent upon the results of a public consultation, currently underway by Ofcom.

But it is a significant step for Ukip as the party seeks to gain greater mainstream credibility, while grappling with a string of damaging headlines.

Racism allegations against members have caused embarrassment for Farage as he attempts to bury fears a sizable undesirable streak exists within the party.

Ukip was previously dismissed by David Cameron who said members were "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists."

But Ofcom has ruled recent strong showings at by-elections have "demonstrated a significant level of support" which is backed by polling data.

The regulator cited research ranking ukip the third most popular party in England and Wales, behind Labour and the Conservatives.

Hailing the latest ruling by Ofcom, Farage told the Telegraph he was "very pleased indeed."

"Fruitcakes are in. There have been certain by-elections where we have been classed as a major party in a particular constituency," said Farage.

Being designated a major party has practical implications too. It means broadcasters must give Ukip a minimum of two spots for party political broadcasts during the election campaign.

The Ofcom ruling has gone down badly with rival parties, including the Greens, whose leader Caroline Lucas branded it "grossly unfair."

Ukip's PR problems continued on the day of the announcement by Ofcom, with confirmation of the expulsion of a party member for alleged racism. Rozanne Duncan represented Ukip as a councillor in the same part of Kent where Farage shall run for MP at this year's general election.