Debate Magazine

Political Media Class Do Not Understand the Greens

Posted on the 25 February 2015 by Lesterjholloway @brolezholloway

Political media class do not understand the GreensEvidently yesterday was a disaster for the Green Party. Their leader Natalie Bennett's 'excruciating' car crash interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC radio was followed later in the day by an equally embarrassing farce of a press conference to launch their general election campaign.

The Green's opponents are no doubt doubling over. I must admit to a giggle myself, yet when the dust settles on the whole debacle probably says more about the elitism of political journalism than it says about the Greens.

Why? Because it demonstrates that the media - or at least the likes of Andrew Neil and Ferrari - don't really 'get' what the Greens are about, or what they represent.

In other words, the Westminster lobby are as out of touch with the sentiments of ordinary voters as the former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind showed with his own car crash response to the Telegraph's lobbying sting.

The media are just not thinking what many of the electorate are thinking; namely that Britain at this moment desperately needs radical thinking on social justice and the environment. And nobody really expects it all to hang together perfectly on the fine details.

The forensic probing on financial costings of Green policies that Bennett has been subjected to by Ferrari and Neil is grossly out of proportion to the size of the Greens (they're only likely to return between one and three MPs out of 650) and out of kilter with the desire for a public debate around principles which, after all, is what Green supporters really want to hear.

The Bennett interviews may showcase journalist's laser intellect and the political class may revel in Bennett's lack of grasp of the detail but in the end they also show a sledgehammer being deployed to crack a Green nut, when green sky thinking is all many voters expect from that party.

UKIP's economic policies hardly hang together either, but many journalists prefer to dwell on Nigel Farage's two strongest cards, Europe and immigration, rather than dissect their fiscal policies.

Ironically when the British National Party were polling almost as much as the Greens are now, large swathes of the media singularly failed to subject Nick Griffin to much scrutiny over his true beliefs and links with some of the most extreme Fascists in Europe and America.

But surely it matters if the Greens don't know how to fund the building of half a million homes a year? Well, yes and no. Clearly any credible party needs to think through their proposals and costings, yet when it comes to the social housing crisis in Britain that isn't really the point.

For a party currently with just one MP in the Commons we need to see more of the Green's broad brushstrokes on solving a crisis than their budget balance sheet appendix.

Just as UKIP pull the whole gravity of politics Rightwards on immigration, so too must the Greens counter-pull the pendulum Leftwards on social justice issues such as the right of every citizen to have a social home if they need it.

Probably neither party have water-tight costings for their policies, but just as UKIP are known more for their general stance on their two hobby-horse issues so the Greens should be afforded a chance to spark new thinking around redistribution of wealth and the re-weighting of priorities according to the need of the many not the greed of the few.

It really isn't that uncommon for parties of opposition to have policies that don't quite add up, they're just more likely to be represented by more 'professionally-trained' politicians practiced in glossing over the inadequacies of how it will all be paid for.

Ultimately that's what experts in the civil service are there to sort out. A good mandarin will study the policies of an incoming government, realise that it doesn't really work in practice but accept that ministers were voted in by popular support, so they will get to grips with the principles behind the policy and try their best to find alternative ways of making it work.

The Greens are unlikely to be part of the next Government and are further hamstrung, if that's the word, by their internal democracy where ordinary party members have a far greater say in setting policy than any other party.

With such a set up it's far more likely that dodgy accounting will be applied like a laminate over grassroots members' radical dreams of a better society.

The Greens don't get enough credit for their democracy. Even the Lib Dems, who have previously prided themselves on democratic decision-making, are not promising a special conference for activist before they enter a coalition in May as they did in 2010. The Greens, by contrast, are holding a special mini-conference just to debate and agree their election manifesto.

Sadly one consequence of Bennett's interviews could be that every subsequent interview between now and the election will be dominated more by wise-guy interviewers seeking to emulate Neil and Ferrari.

Such a scenario will see unnecessary forensic probing on costs rather than what the Greens are really saying, and what a large section of the electorate are crying out to hear.

I suspect that Bennett may now spend more time studying the chemical composition of the mixing pallet, by mugging up on the fine details in order to avoid more disasters in the next 70 days, than concentrating on the broad brushstrokes needed to paint a slightly abstract but nonetheless inspiring vision for the future.

In the gloom of austerity Britain, part-time zero-hours Britain, HSBC tax avoidance Britain and grasping private lobbying MPs Britain, surely the British need to hear a different political narrative, one that doesn't meekly condemn unfairness only to continue business as usual in Government.

Pent-up frustration with the status quo is what the Greens really represent, and the failure of the political media class to grasp that basic reality shows that they have not yet comprehended what today's Greens are about, or what the working class or disenfranchised and oppressed communities want to hear.

If the Green election campaign disintegrates the only beneficiary will be UKIP, who offer those communities only prejudice and xenophobia as an answer to their pain-ridden condition while UKIP continue to represent the interests of the rich to exploit people and the environment. Hardly a triumph for political journalism.

By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway

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