Green Party supporters are upset. Apparently, the BBC are ignoring them. They’ve even set up a petition to demand more coverage from the Beeb, and my Facebook newsfeed is full of people encouraging me to sign it. I’ve a lot of time for the Green Party, but I’m not going to sign.
You see, I just don’t think there’s been a news blackout. The Greens are mentioned throughout the BBC’s election coverage. They’ve reported Natalie Bennett’s view that the Greens are now a ‘national party’ and her view that change is coming. With a quick search on the BBC’s website I found 21 news articles published today that mention the Greens. To say they are being ignored is simply a fallacy.
I do agree that they don’t have quite the coverage that UKIP have though. And here’s why—it’s quite simple really. They aren’t as newsworthy. News is about things that are, well, new. The Greens may have, as the petition points out, 178 council seats. But only 18 of them are gains over the position on Wednesday. UKIP, on the other hand, gained 161 seats. The fact is that both Independents and Residents’ Associations won more council seats than the Greens. Even the critique of media coverage by Another Angry Voice described their showing as “hardly an earth shattering performance”. Essentially, it was wholly unremarkable.
Look at the Greens share of the European Parliament vote in the UK. Yes, they gained one extra MEP, rising from 2 to 3. But their share of the vote is most remarkable for being almost exactly the same as it was last time. That really isn’t news. Jump, as UKIP did, by nearly 11 percentage points—and from a start of 16.5%, that’s a 66% increase—and you’re newsworthy. Get nearly wiped out, as the LibDems did, and you’re newsworthy. Achieve only a few moderate gains that basically leave you in the same position as before—a fringe party with a few localised successes—and you really can’t expect to make headlines.
The BBC’s editorial decisions have been entirely proportionate. UKIP’s gains are big news. And important news. News that we all need to hear and take notice of. News that should not be denied. The rise of the far right should be worrying every decent human being in the country. This is not the time to whinge about some perceived bias in the BBC. It is the time to look at what is happening, take stock and ask how can we ensure that UKIP’s game stops here.
Time for a change of image?
And for the Greens, it’s time to start asking what they need to do to move their game on. Here’s my penn’th. They need to change their image. Many will be screaming at that “it should be about policies, not image”. Well yes, it probably should. But it isn’t. That’s real life—get used to it.
Those who know that the Greens are a credible party with well rounded policies already vote for them. But for most of the electorate they are perceived as a single issue party focused on the environment, and perhaps a bit flaky with that. They are seen as middle-aged politicians who spent their youth living in yurts and buses. Their activists sit at elections counts knitting peace scarves. Not that there’s anything wrong with knitting peace scarves, but it is not an image that appeals to the majority of the electorate. And yes, of course the BBC could have chosen not to use that photo. Just as the activist could have chosen not to get her knitting out. The Greens need to learn to play the game. They need to find a way to get across to the wider electorate that they are not a single issue party. That they have credible policies that address the economy and society as well as the environment. And one thing that stands in the way of that is their name.