Published on June 3rd, 2014 |
by Jon Regnart
The Green Party Fights On Despite Being Ignored By the Media
Why the Green Party Feel Slighted
In the leftist caverns of the internet, more than 40,000 people have signed an online petition claiming the BBC was unfairly biased against the Green Party. In addition to mentioning the gains the Green Party had made, the petition convincingly argues that Natalie Bennett was not interviewed until 2:30am on Vote 2014; despite members of the other four parties being regularly interviewed.
Another concern was that since January 2014 Question Time had only featured one Green Party member (Caroline Lucas MP). To rub salt in the wound further, Sky News also decided to place the Green Party in with “Others” during its European election coverage; much to Caroline Lucas’ discomfort.
This all seems rather unfair. The Green Party achieved more votes per minute of television coverage than any other political party and finished ahead of the Liberal Democrats with three MEPs and 7.9% of the vote. Locally, the Green Party now have 162 councillors across 52 councils making 23 gains.They stand as the official opposition in Solihull, Islington, Liverpool, Lewisham and Norwich. They also made breakthroughs in Bristol, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Epping Forest, Babergh and the Wirral. Yet even the most hardened Green Party supporters will concede that this doesn’t warrant front-page news.
So perhaps I need to establish a sense of perspective. Due to the petition being formed immediately after a strong (yet underwhelming) performance by the Green Party, this petition may be Green supporters throwing a Shared Earth rattle at the BBC. Furthermore, the stand-out figures from the local council and European elections understandably merit media coverage towards the other four parties.
In headline order: UKIP gained a record number of council seats alongside 27.5% of the vote in the European election; Labour did well numerically in both but not enough to mount a decisive General Election win; the Liberal Democrats haemorrhaged support clinging onto one MEP and six councils whilst the Conservatives expectedly lost seats and face their right wing support being chipped away at. Add Ed Miliband criminally eating a bacon sandwich into the mixer and the headlines write themselves.
However just because the Green Party aren’t breaking news doesn’t mean they should be marginalised. If you take into consideration the gains they’ve made, their prominence in Europe and their limited finances I believe they performed admirably; albeit not as well as the party had hoped. The Green Party’s lack of coverage doesn’t stem from an insidious media bias against their values. Instead, it comes from a generalised perception that they performed poorly. Therefore, where did the Green Party go wrong and why didn’t they get more meaningful coverage?
Acting Up to the Cameras Pays
Firstly, the Green Party are guilty of not making outlandish statements or acting up to attract headlines. To put it bluntly: they are guilty of being “boring”. As a rule, smaller parties tend to attract audiences by using quirky sound bites in order to increase media exposure. The Green Party didn’t do this. You could argue Lucas’ arrest in Brighton against fracking counts as outlandish and did garner some media attention. But unfortunately an MP’s sincere act of civil disobedience was seen as less newsworthy than an ex-stockbroker in a pub repeating in a contrived manner he’s anti-establishment.
Secondly as touched upon above, the Greens have limited funds to really ignite their campaign. In the first quarter of 2014 the Greens received donations amounting to £249,130. The vast majority of this money came from Green Party activists or regular members donating. In the same period UKIP received £493,412. £350,000 of that money came from four completely unquestionable and wealthy individuals who represent the four most honest professions: banking, gambling, housing and nightclubs.
This financial disparity may contribute to their relative poor performance. If a party is viewed as having limited support it will receive limited publicity. This causes donations to remain at a constant level because a party’s message cannot spread further or deeper. As a result, this ultimately weakens future campaigns to increase support and publicity.
It’s obviously not the sole reason but it’s interesting to note that before UKIP were receiving lashings of press coverage, it only received £74,150 during the first quarter of 2013. If we look to 2009 when UKIP enjoyed similar amounts of media attention, we see it received £1,403,987 for the year. Even more interesting is that UKIP’s record donation of £1.5 million from Paul Sykes in April coincided with the party’s strongest media campaign and electoral performance.
The European Elephant in the Room
Another argument for the Green Party’s limited finances and coverage is quite simple: they didn’t address the right issues and only represent a tiny portion of voters. Therefore the Green Party were never likely to get much coverage as the European elections were fought over immigration. Sadly, the Greens are still predominately viewed as a single issue party despite them having substantial policies and stances. Therefore with UKIP dominating the European debate, anything remotely associated with the environment was quickly kicked off the agenda.
I’m not suggesting that people’s concerns about immigration are irrelevant, I just think Europe extends beyond that one-dimensional argument. For instance, I rarely heard arguments stating how co-operation in Europe achieves positive environmental outcomes. Perhaps the tide of anti-European sentiment must be tolerated in order to aim for a longer term goal of environmental sustainability. Whilst the use of immigration is a shameful tactic to pursue EU reform (or withdrawal), unfortunately it’s a political reality the Green Party had to battle against.
Nevertheless the Green Party were not completely irrelevant this year. In the UK council elections the Greens promoted something more tangible than international CO2 levels. The Greens campaign for the protection of green belt land, conservation of wildlife, nationalisation of railways and a fairer economic system. In a survey of over 413,000 people, the Vote for Policies website made respondents choose policies without seeing the party they belonged to. The survey found people ranked the Green Party’s policies in relation to crime, education, environment and health first; whilst on the economy, immigration and welfare the party ranked second.
In practice, Worcester’s Green Councillor Neil Laurenson has already proposed that no worker should get less than an eighth of the managing director’s salary. Whilst the demographic that actively searches for websites such as Vote for Policies must be taken into consideration, I can’t help thinking if the Greens were publicised as much as UKIP they would strike a chord with the voting public.
In the end, perhaps the biggest PR mistake the Green Party made was being too honest and diligent. Whilst acting bombastically generates headlines, why should their strategy change? After all, isn’t honesty and diligence what we want from politicians? The Green Party do not occupy a moral high ground. They are not above political point scoring, attack adverts or even getting arrested. But considering their record when holding political positions is comparatively strong it gives them an appearance of honesty. They deserve more coverage not just because they warrant praise but because their policies, values and image of honesty need be thoroughly scrutinised.
The media shouldn’t supplant our own research or decisions but they should at least responsibly cover parties that have done reasonably well in an election. The mainstream media has not only robbed the Green Party of positive publicity, it has also taken away any meaningful discussion of their truly alternative policies.
Please note that all blog posts do not represent the views of Catch21 but only of the individual writers. We also aim to be factually accurate and balanced across all content taken as a whole.