It might seem strange to do this post on the morning we launched the Green Party’s Local and European Election campaign but bear with me. Our launch follows a poll by YouGov showing that amongst those certain to vote, the Greens lead the Liberal Democrats by 9% to 7%. It also comes a day after the Telegraph revealed that the Lib Dems are privately briefing that they will be losing all of their MEPs.
We currently have an MP, 2 Euro MPs, 2 Scottish Green MSPs, 2 London Assembly members and 161 councillors. A swing of 1.3% in our favour would treble our Euro representation. A 2.5% swing would mean 7 and probably a Scottish Green Euro MP. How much coverage in the national media should the Greens be getting? The answer is a lot more.
At 11am, there was one line in the Guardian live blog, as a diary item about our launch. That was it. The BBC have covered it but almost because they have to. It comes on the back of the Independent comparing the policies of the different parties and excluding the Greens (even though 10 to 15% of the Indy readership vote Green). The Telegraph story slams the Liberal Democrats in their article, but not a single mention of the Green Party. Natalie Bennett was on the Marr Show yesterday and the Daily Politics today, but as a panellist, with time shared with 4 other parties – when we’ve launched nationally with our manifesto.
So what is going on? I’ve been tweeting about a #mediablackout of the Greens. The OFCOM ruling that the Greens were not a major party, but UKIP were, has licenced the media to exclude us from most debate and coverage. More than that, I also think there is a real challenge to the establishment that comes from the Greens. We are articulating an economic model that isn’t based on growth, we are advocating public ownership, and indeed Green policies are far more popular than those of other parties. The fact that we were so close to making a national breakthrough in 2009 and then having the platform to challenge the other parties on economic orthodoxy, is something that is greatly feared by those in positions of influence.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Maybe the Guardian is still feeling bruised by its support for the Liberal Democrats in the 2010 election, and they feel that editorially it would be damaging to Labour to give the Greens a fair hearing. The Telegraph and Mail are probably angry that they have finally had to concede that Climate Change caused by people is a reality. However the facts are very clear, and I hope that whatever the election results, there is an effective analysis of coverage of the different parties, which exposes just how appalling and lacking in balance media coverage for the Greens has been.
I am writing this now (at lunchtime, from work) because there will be mainstream media coverage of the launch. There has to be (although so far I've only seen the BBC and a couple of local papers). But it is what happens next that counts. The Greens should be in the debate, the discussions and the national coverage if we are running at parity or above the Lib Dems. If the mainstream media pulls the plug after a single hit, then it would be an appalling illustration of just how loaded things are for the establishment (or acceptable to the establishment) parties.
What I will say is that our ground campaign and our online presence (and the changing nature about how people get their news) has kept us in the hunt for seats regardless of the mainstream media exclusion. The facts on the ground in the North West show a collapse in Lib Dem candidates (they are standing less people than us in Cumbria and Merseyside) and a collapse in their campaigning capacity. In 2009 the Lib Dems were in control of Liverpool City Council but in 2014 they can only manage to field candidates in just 18 out of 30 seats in the city.
We are now competing for 4th place on the back of little or no mainstream media coverage. What happens if we start to get that chance to share our popular message and policies? Then we might really see a significant Green surge and create a new story in this Euro Election campaign.