RALPH Nader, now 76, announced in New York on Sunday that he will stand again in this year's US presidential contest as a third-party candidate. Nader was one of the most admired and effective consumer advocates in the United States in the 1960s. His campaign “Unsafe at any speed” against American car manufacturers for their lack of interest in safety features such as seat belts was a model for countless other campaigns around the world.

Subsequently he turned to politics and stood at the 2000 presidential election as an independent. He attracted almost 100'000 votes in Florida where Al Gore lost to George W Bush by a contested narrow margin in a state that swung the national election so dramatically to the Republicans. The Democrats have always believed that most of Nader's votes would have gone to Gore if he had not intervened. Nationally Nader got 2.7 per cent of votes cast, and four years later when he stood again only 0.3 per cent. IT is unlikely that this year's contest will be decided by the narrow margin of 2000 so Nader's participation is unlikely to be decisive in any way. In a TV interview on Sunday he gave a number of reasons for deciding to stand one more time. In a sense, one can admire Nader for retaining his independent spirit but one's reaction is more likely to be of sadness in seeing someone who was once so influential reduced to tilting ineffectively at windmills.