Thing 2. The Battle for the media
Our relative impact in terms of quantity of coverage is immense. To correct bias has the potential to alter the political architecture of the UK. It is also worth noting that it is not just the quantity of coverage but also the quality of coverage that is questionable. There is nothing covert about the gusto displayed by key BBC figures as they talk up UKIP and snatch at, interrupt and direct Green speakers into less fertile areas of debate .
Having witnessed 'Clegg-Mania' in 2010, the plucky underdog winning with 61% popularity on the first election debate broadcast, it was clear that if Caroline Lucas had been invited, something even more remarkable could have happened.
The format for next years debates are still being worked-out and on the back of pressure, petitions and complaints, next years TV debates should be more representative.
In the wake of May 22nd, the battle for fair green coverage has exploded and will be mentioned in 'Thing 6. The young greens - A Bright Green Future'. The last time I checked, the 38 degree petition was approaching 40k names. Amazing, and it's not just greens signing. Also the Guardian reports that 1200 individual letters of complaint have also been sent directly to the BBC.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson has responded to concerns. It's not just politicians that do politics you know. The program was broadcast last night and is available on iplayer here. The program begins by showing 2 examples from the archive of Nick Robinson challenging Nigel Forage. Then several letters were read out, including this one from Elizabeth Clark.
They have had what appears to be a disproportionate amount of coverage and then, surprise surprise they do well, can't help but thinking that if a party like the greens that have an MP, had been given the same amount of coverage, they would have done better, it almost feels like a self fulfilling prophecy: tell everyone often enough, that UKIP is a force to be reckoned with, and then they are
Needless to say in the battle for the media, we have a long way to go. Fair coverage is of vital importance and we need to apply an unrelenting barrage of pressure to get our fair share.
OFCOM have been approached?
Thing 3. The Green Party displacing the Lib Dems
All the more stunning then, and a compliment to thing 2 was the recent News Night broadcast about the new 4 party politics, that excluded the Greens. The establishment is undoubtedly scared of the left.
Latest polls for the general election have Greens and Lib Dems neck and neck, although the pollsters don't want to give us any credit (see tweet below).
Thing 4. Owen Jones is a Green and other hobbies
Ukip's politics of despair has filled a vacuum. That's why Labour needs to offer hope: a living wage, for instance; letting councils build Britain out of its housing crisis; an industrial strategy to create the renewable energy jobs of the future; turning the bailed-out banks into accountable public investment banks; tax justice; and public ownership of our key utilities.
Other notable nails in the coffin in recent times, were the poor showing of only 13 Labour MPs voting against Osbourne's welfare cap in March (100% of Green MPs voting against :) and as an article in yesterday's Huff Post reveals the party plans to do nothing to undo con-dem cuts. Labour has some great folks in its ranks, but the Labour left have never been so sparse. This will of course provide Owen with plenty of wholesome green material to fling at his party.
Thing 5. Membership (Steady and ongoing - waiting to explode?)
The trend with the smaller parties is a little different. UKIP is up and down, a trend one may expect will continue in the long term, Griffin's BNP has probably taken its final frog march since leaving europe, the new and ever hopeful left unity project is up at around 2000. Respect seems to have left the show and the NHA is a single issue party that is great, but doesn't have the legs to develop.
The graph below shows a steady and sustainable rise in Green Party membership over the years, it is currently reported to be at around the 16k mark (so you can add another upward deflection to the 2011 figure on the graph below) and appears to be on the ascendency, quoted at recently growing at 50 per day. As the debate and parties shift further to the right, the vacuum to the left grows ever larger. the Green Party is THE party of the left, so one can assume will take up the slack and attract accordingly.
Membership growth has proven to be sustainable, there has been a massive influx of young members and once in, people tend to stay. The party is popular with the under 30s (see thing 6)
and attracts many young voters (ahead of both UKIP and Lib Dems in the most recent YouGov poll in the 18-24 year old category with similar results with the under 30s in the latest Ashcroft Poll ).
Thing 7.' The Green Bridge' will discuss other avenues of potential membership growth that are quite unique in British politics.
Thing 6. The Young Greens (A Bright Green Future)
Josiah Mortimer, young greens press officer tells me that alot of the GPEW influx of membership occurred on the free membership scheme during the 2010 student protests and has subsequently led to hundreds of long term members. Perhaps now is a good time to roll out a similar scheme? #thegreensurge
Membership is currently as little as a fiver - you can join here.
The brilliant 38 degree petition mentioned in 'Thing 2' to tackle the disparity in media coverage was set up by a young green, Portia Cocks. The outcomes of which are unfolding as I write, articles are popping up all over and Nick Robinson's broadcast last night is only going to fan the flames not extinguish them.
Topically, Thomas G Clark of 'Another Angry Voice' writes:
"Instead of complaining to the BBC about their blatantly biased coverage, the Green party needs to engage alternative strategies. The old world of traditional media still dominates now, but the party that really figures out the new world of social networking and independent bloggers is going to be at a distinct advantage in the future"
But I do agree with the second point regard blogging, and social media. It's partly why I have started blogging again and I think many more should. I expect we will start to see many more Young Green bloggers in the near future and there are young green writers that are establishing themselves, like the aforementioned Josiah Mortimer for example. (As an aside I wonder if Jim Jepps of the 'Daily Maybe' would start again. Hmmm.)
The greens are having to use a heavy grassroots social network led campaign. As a cohort the young greens understand social media the best. The 38 degree petition is a prime example. There is always room for improvement and the Social network campaign is establishing itself. How many green party groups, pages, twitter accounts and so on are there?
The signs for further development are good. For example a young green based in Stroud: Sahaya James produces high quality graphics on a whim. In fact by some fluke I shared an infographic on my facebook profile a couple of weeks ago and sang its praises. Green party campaigns coordinator Howard Thorp asked who had made it. A young green Daniel Lee owned up and was subsequently invited onto the campaigns committee. Here is his work:
Thing 7. The Green Bridge (Unique outreach in British Politics -The Left, The Fracktivists, Occupy, et al)
The Green Party genuinely can and does reach out to these two strands like no other party can. Adam Ramsay has just written two excellent blogs over on bright green. On one he begins
"Last week, more than at any time I can remember, politically active friends from across the left – from the feminist, student, anti-austerity, environmental and democracy movements, seem to have turned out in droves to vote for The Green Party. This is an appeal to them – you – to join the party, and to get involved.
Taking the broad left, those that are exploring radical ideas, anti-capitalism, socialism and Marxism or if a distinction is still required: 'ecosocialism':
We just can't wait for the overthrow of capitalism before taking the steps necessary to ensure some level of climate stabilization or before we surpass several other planetary ecological boundaries.
A G8 nation with green government and a Green Europe could make in-roads. Electoral politics for all its nonsense is a way to win some of these changes, to keep the coal in the hole and the oil in the soil, to put an end to fracking or to prevent the march of Monsanto.
For me personally, coming from the above base made it a little hard for quite some time to associate fully with the greens. I felt more at home with the 'grassroots' and found actual politics to be quite repellent, i.e. I shared the same concerns of many radicals.
I see the green party/electoral politics as just one front and an important one. I believe we have to 'start where we are' and adhering to some form of ideological purity often leads to little more than naval gazing and other unfruitful endeavours.
Supporting and developing the greens is I believe a very worthwhile endeavour. More sects are just not going to have impact and the ecological and social clocks are ticking. The total vote in this analysis of left parties' Euro results (below - and not including the greens) was only 0.29% down from 2.22% 5 years ago.
The Greens back many of these measures. They are policy. An example from the manifesto:
“Encourage worker ownership and co-operatives by supporting member states in introducing a workers’ right to buy their company.”
It is the green left (if not the actual green party group, but the ideas of the movement) that makes Green politics less hum drum, delivers it's brilliant social justice agenda and stops it from being that thing that every commentator in the land seems to associate with the party - A single issue environmental party. So starting tomorrow, hug that ecomarxist, they open doors.
As other movements gather pace, animal rights - badger protection or the the anti-fracking movement and so on, many others will automatically begin to associate with the greens, other parties just don't resonate with these groups.
On Bridge People, not trolls though, that's different
In my experience it is often the more radical members that open the way for others for the first steps on the green bridge. Someone like the international coordinator Derek Wall who writes articles like this in the Morning Star "Why good old Karl still holds his own" and links with the commons movement and all things Karl Marx and anti-capitalist. Here he speaks at occupy at the tent university.
Caroline Lucas has also done lots of great outreach work, happy to be called a watermelon on TV by the telegraph's most eminent climate denier James Delingpole, famously getting arresting with other Fracktavists at Balcombe and quick to support and speak at Occupy where she said:
"As awareness increases of the injustice and unsustainability of the global economic system, more and more people are taking to the streets in opposition.
"The camp that has been set up a stone's throw from London Stock Exchange is an opportunity to explore a different kind of future to the one the mainstream political parties have constructed.
"The authorities must now respect the right to peaceful protest.
"If they have any sense, they will also start to listen to the voices of those ordinary - and extraordinary people - who want to invest in a greener, fairer future rather than the stocks-and-shares house of sand that sustains corporate capitalism."
So the green bridge works for those that are already active in one form or another, demonstrable by membership or by votes and appeals to the broader left or other more focal movements for social and environmental justice, in a way no other party can.
But how to engage those in that large cohort that do not vote? Stroud's Molly Scott Cato's campaign in the South West region provides a good case study. It was very positive, not UKIP-centric and relied on talking in simple terms about how green ideas are about enhancing the quality of life. It was'nt fake like that of a career politician nor was it headline grabbing but it was 'real' articulate, humble and solution focused, not problem focused. This to me is the secret of how to engage the apathetic who have no trust of politicians. More on this in thing 10 - Belief.
Thing 8. UKIP voters and other floaters are there for the taking
Not everyone follows politics closely, time constraints, not much interest and so on. A lot of people really don't know what the kip actually stand for, not producing a manifesto for May 22nd was either lazy or mindful. Their last manifesto was very unpopular (see voteforpolicies.org.uk) (Ours was of course the most popular)
The one issue, bloke down the pub, cheeky Nige with his fag, media narrative delivered by the beeb has resonated but in conversation can be deconstructed fairly concisely.
The key points that have been passed around the net can pierce the Farage mirage in quick time.
"While talking it was clear that they were often concerned about provision of services, lack of school places, scarcity of affordable housing and poor wages rather than an overtly anti-immigrant agenda. Certainly positive Green messages about an economy run for the benefit of people not corporations, with jobs paying the living wage and reducing the pay gap went down well. "
Thing 9. The Brits love the under-dog
Robbing words in such a way, and using them against their progeny is a clever way of diminishing their original value and frustrating the opposition.
There is currently a battle for the word the 'underdog' - why? Because for whatever reason, in this country in particular, we seem to love em and tend to give them our support and in turn tend to believe that our support can make a difference. Think Tim Henman, not a bad player but rubbish anywhere other than Wimbledon, got as far as the semi's and now has a hill named after him. I digress.
Deputy UKIP leader Paul Nuttall uses the term 'underdog' repeatedly, to deflect criticisms of UKIP being a single issue, eurosceptic party or a party of racists hell bent on dividing the country, cashing in on hate, as delivered by friends at the daily mail and so on - nope 'our success is because the brits love the underdog' is his favoured reply.
But its not just UKIP that are trying to label themselves as the plucky underdog. Nick Clegg has said that it is the Lib Dems that are deserving of the crown, because they were the only party confronting the "Eurosceptic establishment" directly in the European election campaign, by fighting on an unashamedly pro-European platform.
Nick Clegg neglects to mention, that the Greens are also running a pro-european platform. Wanting to reform the European machinery and working within it to improve it as opposed getting elected and then boycotting it. With a characteristic commitment to democracy, greens also want to offer an in-out referendum.
It was also in 2010 that Nick Clegg's great moment came, when being cast as the underdog against Brown and Cameron in the TV debates. Clegg winning by 61% on popular vote after the first one was aired. Cleggmania seems like a distant dream now but it did happen, I think :/
The format of next year's TV debates is not yet finalized, but if a green is there (and we must make it so) the 'real underdogs' that is - who knows what might happen.
Whichever way you look at it, campaign funds, feet on the street, media coverage, constantly being outcast into the dustbin called 'other', money in the coffers generally, we have dibs on the 'plucky underdog' title. Ironically this can be turned in our favour and become a part of an appealing, David vs Goliath type narrative.
The 'thing' can happen when you really start to believe in it and it is the belief in a thing that can make it happen.
I have witnessed a buzz amongst the greens in the past few months, more so than I can ever remember. The Greens are starting to believe.
31 million people did not vote on May 22nd. That is a staggering figure. It means each party garnered only small percentages of the total available vote and viewed through this lens the differences between each party are actually pretty tiny.
Politics/representative democracy is in crisis. And the rubber faced man with the pint and the fag is, despite popular narrative not causing people to vote in droves. That is - those non voters are not being duped. Faragism is 'clickbait' and accordingly the go to media story. With such superficial underpinnings things tend to rise just as quickly as they can fall.
The fact that UKIP did not produce a manifesto and their existing policies are very unpopular had no bearing on their relative success in the euro vote, having ran a single issue media supported campaign.
In the locals the fact they gained control of no councils have a comparable number of councillors to the greens, have myriad negative associations and can rationally be called out as a crypto-fascist organization; yet, had near complete control over the popular media is a gross injustice.
Fox News must be considering giving the beeb a 'development' award.
Politics is dominated by people that the electorate do not believe in, people we do not recognise. The privately educated, privileged, and the technocrats; A representative democracy with a non-representative sample of people. Only 4% of MPs have ever had a manual job. Where are all the women? (50% of green candidates are women) Professional or career politicians dominate, yet seldom resonate with people outside of the Westminster village or the established minority of the population that still give a shit about politics.
There is much not to believe in, and I'm only scratching the surface here.
So what sets the greens apart? and why after presenting such a damning view on politics are the greens starting to believe?
What I think I have seen with the greens in the past year is a kind of collective elevation in belief. This is a pervasive and underlying accumulation that is hard to attribute to any one thing in particular but there are some outstanding items that help join the dots.
Knowing that we have the best policies is very significant. Its like turning up in the school play-ground with an indestructible conker that should never lose a match. But great policies are ironically superficial in this game when it comes to quick gains. But it is the game that is under scrutiny here, for the players can feel rightly empowered. It is a boost that shifts the consciousness into belief gear.
There is a constant reinforcement that we are on the right track. Counter-intuitively, this comes from the negatives that we read about every day, be it the latest IPCC report, realization of further developments in the slow motion privatization of the NHS, climate changes that are coming ever closer to home, the rise and rise of the working poor, the food bank shame of a 'rich' country, rising mental health issues, the housing crisis, the increasing distance between reality and the notion of meritocracy etc etc. We are constantly reminded that we are on the right path, in that, we have a positive response to each 'negative'
To appeal to the electorate is theoretically straightforward. As easy as it would be, easier for the more holistic greens than any others to deal in negatives, what we do, is push solutions and don't play on fear. The papers and other parties are doing the groundwork for us, laying the foundations of despair. This is playing into our hands. This is how we set ourselves apart. We offer genuine solutions.
We pick our sound bites and we hammer them home. We have little choice to make mention of UKIP and the other parties. It is a necessary way to illustrate contrast. But it can't degenerate into negative politics and become a central theme, that way we fail to engage and lose the battle to be believable.
If you should need to get your belief fix just recall the always seductive four pillars of our politics:
Or maybe the belief fix can be garnered from those 2 magic E words - Ecology and Equality. That's exactly what we represent and that is everything worth fighting for. Or recall how ethically unique we are. For example earlier this month a donation from a millionaire was rejected, despite it being entirely lawful, but it failed to adhere to strict green party ethical guidelines. This really is not what people expect of political parties. It's not like the green coffers are stuffed full.
I said in my introduction that 'Thing 10 - Belief' was the lord of the things, the thing that binds all the other things together. Each taken together has a synergistic effect when applied to thing 10. The elevation of belief of party members and in the electorate for the party. So seatbelts on for the big finish:
We know that despite a heavily biased media, our impact per unit of time and quality of coverage equates to a green victory.
The battle for fair representation is well underway and picking up huge support from within and outside of the greens. A place at the table in the televised debates could alter the political architecture of this country, we need to apply relentless pressure to make this happen.
We are displacing one of the government parties and have reasons to believe we can continue on this path. The most popular commentator in the country is a green that awkwardly is in the Labour Party! but nonetheless is continually pushing green policy and strategy, albeit lost on Labour.
Membership continues to rise. Whereas the other main parties are in decline, our growth has proven to be sustainable. The young greens are great, taking the lead in the social media campaign and pointing the way to a bright green future.
The Green Bridge is unique in British politics and leads to votes and members, not available to the other parties.
As the debate shifts to the right we become increasingly relevant as THE genuine left party, also as issues escalate, fracking, climate change, and myriad issues of social justice, we are the 'go to' party. This trend will continue.
Everyone loves an underdog and we are the true underdog. We have the best policies and with positive politics we can make in-roads and change minds, including with those that vote for UKIP.
The 'thing' can happen when you really start to believe in it, and it is the belief in a thing that can make it happen.