Is The Green Party Missing From The Post-Election Landscape?

polling in the rain

While UKIP has been busy racking up national column inches, the Green Party has been rather quietly blooming in London. In last month’s local elections, they claimed 6.9% of the London-wide vote — an increased vote share of 50% up from 2010’s 4.6%.

The four council seats in London that the Green Party won (St Leonards, Lambeth; Brockley, Lewisham; Highgate, Camden; Highbury East, Islington) may be a mere third of UKIP’s 12 seats, yet the Islington and Lambeth seats mean it has doubled its numbers and probably calls for some recycled partypopper action. The gains also deserve some serious debate and analysis from London’s political folk.

In the European elections, Green Party MEP Jean Lambert was re-elected for her fourth term in the European parliament, costing UKIP a second seat while the Liberal Democrats lost their sole London MEP. Overall, the Green Party won 9% of the London-wide vote share putting them in fourth place behind UKIP but ahead of the Lib Dems — adding some leafy green to a bittersweet Farage-Clegg-sandwich.

Look at the London vote share in further detail and the Green Party came in second place behind Labour in Islington (19%) and Lambeth (16%), making them the sole opposition in both, and in Lewisham (16%) and Hackney (21%). Although the party did not win a seat in Hackney (where it has held a council seat in the past) the Greens came second in the borough’s Mayoral elections (17%).

While we see enough of Farage’s face to keep fish and chip shops across the capital in environmentally-friendly wrappings until next year’s general election, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett’s face (and voice) has been notably absent from the post-election punditry. Why aren’t the Greens shouting about their successes?

It is true that the Green Party’s London election results do not make for fairytale figures — it succeeded in retaining its London MEP and gaining seats, but the party’s overall vote share was down by 2% in the European elections. Despite local election successes the Greens’ four seats still sit a good bit behind UKIP’s 12. Although the Greens argue that under a pure Proportional Representation (PR) voting system they would have gained 125 seats across London, that is perhaps a debate for another day.

But perhaps it’s just that the Green Party’s voice isn’t being heard. With all the allure of UKIP’s scandalous policies and the okekoke-style EU referendum debates (are we in? Out? Should we shake it all about?), Green is far from this season’s must-have colour where the press is concerned. Are we witnessing the real potential threats to democracy from extremist parties — that the British media are hopelessly seduced by them?

Should the political press be reigning it in a bit and ensuring that vital pre- and post-election coverage is extended to smaller parties like the Greens and independents, rather than focusing on those who make the most obvious headlines? The organisers of this petition, which accuses the BBC of a ‘media blackout of the green party’, certainly think so, and so do the more than 45,000 people who signed it; not to mention the almost 1,200 complaints also received by the BBC.

Do these people have a point? Is the mainstream media being led, or worse inadvertently leading readers, up the UKIP garden path? Does the election coverage make more of a fuss of UKIP than it really warrants? According to YouGov, UKIP has actually fallen in popularity at the recent elections — millions more voters now regard UKIP negatively than they did in 2009, and fewer sit on the fence with their UKIP stance. What Farage’s party did well was turn diminishing approval into votes. A one-in-three national turnout actually only equates UKIP’s ‘earthquake’ to 9% of the electorate. Doesn’t make for catchy sensationalist headlines though, does it?

The wider debate is less about the lack of reporting on the Green Party’s election gains, and more about the love-hate, on-off, will-they-won’t they passionate Farage affair that has captivated the hearts and pens of journos country-wide.

What do you think of the election coverage? Was it fair? Or are there issues that need to be addressed before next year’s general election? Let us know in the comments.

Photo by Cris Rose in the Londonist Flickr pool.

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  • Benjamin Samuel

    No, I think the media has a responsibility to build political will on climate change, something people may not want to think about but is a much bigger threat than immigration or the far right in Europe. Greens have approached this by raising awareness of TTIP, air pollution, and campaigning a bit on housing as well. As a green I was shocked that my local UKIP candidate polled above me because I worked solidly for 4 years and he basically rode the media and money wave. I don’t think the pre-campaign coverage was fair either, and because Greens are not beholden to the media we’ll be the first to make a noise on issues ranging from unaccountable Secret Services to Jimmy Saville’s systematic abuses to science reporting to the inquiry into media reform following Milly Dowler. I think the media are institutionally dependent on certain adverts, for instance when BP agreed that magazines that they advertised in would ask them first before reporting negatively on them. Greens have been very strong online, having a really good following on new media.

    • Tom Laz Bisley

      The problem is one of demographics. The media is still pandering to the Baby Boomers who vote UKIP and ignoring anyone under 30 with a political opinion.
      The Boomers have all the power, they’re the ones who own all the property in this town that isn’t lying empty to fund some foreign crook and therefore they are the ones with the loudest voice.
      Is it any wonder the voter turnout is so low amongst younger voters (the Green’s core I would argue) when they aren’t even being addressed by the media?

      • Benjamin Samuel

        Agree. I have a friend called Shivers who just happens to be chair of the Young Greens. She registered to vote but Barnet Council sat on her form and couldn’t be bothered to let her vote or stand as a candidate, against the Lib Dems in Childs Hill. It was very very close. Totally no voice!
        An other friend of mine is a “foreign” voter so can only vote in local and European. She registered to vote and the council lost her form. Again no voice! We were lucky with the weather and ran a positive campaign, increasing turnout to 40% which is not bad for a country that doesn’t have elections on a Sunday. You should be able to register on polling day.

      • Bee Warren

        I’m not so sure about that, Tom. As an ‘oldie’ amongst a lot of fellow ‘oldies’ who have been pushing the green agenda, probably since before you were born, my impression is that, on the whole, the post Thatcher generations tend to be the most materialistic and self-serving since that was the attitude she promoted. However it is heartening to know some of the younger set are more aware and rising against that short-sightedness .

    • Starbar Rothschild

      no ben the media do not ” have a responsibility to build, etc.” in a free country they have a responsibility to remain impartial. you must accept that many people do not believe in man made climate change therefore It is YOUR duty to build political will if you are committed enough.

      • Benjamin Samuel

        Starbar, after attending various demonstrations that were violently attacked by political policing, and the police then used their undue influence of the media of accusing us of being violent, to persue their agenda of repressive power. I do not believe we live in a free country. Even in the USA the media can’t remain impartial if they are partial to begin with. Studies show that most Fox viewers believe wrong things and there’s no way I can turn people from that in a 5 minute doorstep conversation.

      • HHGeek

        Do you mean “impartial”, Starbar, or do you just mean that the media should ignore the facts as understood by the vast majority?

        Some non-scientists may not believe in climate change, but almost all scientists do. I think the scientists probably understand the science rather better than the “many people”, so it’s the media’s responsibility to report the science. Or at least allocate representation in fair proportion to the ratio of those on each ‘side’.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjuGCJJUGsg

  • chris W

    Isn’t it that the media (and maybe the broader public too) are uncomfortable with any argument that can’t be resolved to two (maybe three at a push) opposing poles?

    • Benjamin Samuel

      Yes, but look at areas like Lewisham and there’s one party in charge of the whole council. As the general election comes near you’ve got to wonder who will be those poles and will they agree on everything.

  • Jorda

    The Greens have the highest number of votes per minute of airtime on television. The reason the media don’t want to show them is because they are scared of promoting a party that is actually aiming for governance and has a fully costed plan should it ever get there, rather than UKIP which are just rhetoric and headlines.

  • Mark Jacobs

    The Greens do not support wanton corporate greed (as vetted by bosses at Bilderberg), hence they can never garner mass media attention. I like their drugs policy (clearly laid-out in their manifesto at http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/du.html#DU405 ) which treats drug addicts as people with medical problems, not criminals. Now, that’s common sense (although not so common as it would seem!).

  • KG

    The only criticism I have of that article is the word ‘ inadvertently’. I started ignoring the mainstream media soon after they made it clear they intended to ignore most of my interests. My only question is, how will we know when it gets to the stage where the ‘mainstream’ media are shouting to precisely no-one.

  • Graham Ward

    We expect the media to report the news impartially, but at the same time we treat politicians as celebrities. So the 24 hours machine gives us politics as entertainment, with big personalities and serious issues distilled into soundbites. We treat politicians like soap opera characters and elections like TV talent shows. The Greens only fit into the story as a minor character. We generally get the politicians we deserve.

  • Livio Pavone

    The article raises some interesting points. The media has given Farage more airtime/coverage than ANY OTHER political party so it has been “unfair” to them as well. The fact remains that the Green Party has been excluded on purpose and has suffered because of that to some extent. Why has the Green Party suffered when other movements like Podemos, Tsipiras, M5S are not relying on TV shared time? It is partly the relevance of the message that counts?

  • Lego Andrew Lonsdale

    no as london is not england

  • Dom O’Reilly

    I agree. The trouble is that the three main parties say little or nothing of interest and UKIP bring in viewers and readers. It is for the wrong reasons but that makes them newsworthy. The Greens’ intelligent, thought-out and costed policies aren’t as jazzy so they are not featured. It’s deeply wrong.

  • Danny Jacobs

    Agreed but the media still only back the LibLabCons.Every paper from the Mail to Guardian slagged off UKip and tried to derail them.

    The Greens are university types who cannot engage with the working person.Labour can’t even win Tower H any more and this will spread further to other boroughs once the Islamic vote fields it’s own candidates rather than vote for a bacon sandwich eating leader.

    If you forced the non voters down to the polling station the average working class majority in the UK would vote for UKip as those policies are what speaks to there concerns. They don’t want to be told how foreign aid and immigration is good for us

    • Starbar Rothschild

      A simple, accurate assessment of the state of play Danny. i have now asked 15 people if they voted, sadly only four of them did,no-one I know voted green in my area.There is no direct relationship between sensible, community- beneficial policies and number of votes cast, a lesson for EVERYONE to learn from.

      • Benjamin Samuel

        One of the surprising things is the results is that the Green Party got a higher vote in the local elections than the European. I believe this is because of housing policies. You had most parties not understanding or communicating the local issues, instead blaming immigrants.

  • Jon Regnart

    Very interesting blog. My thoughts are stretched out deeper in my blog.

    http://www.catch21.co.uk/2014/06/green-party-fights-on-despite-being-ignored

    FInances, the perception of the Greens, UKIP being bombastic and the climate of the Euro elections all contributed to their poor coverage. Such a shame cause they offer a true alternative.