Green Party Election

By Matt Kilcoyne

One more make-or-break election has just taken place in the UK that has the possibility of shaping the face of politics in this country for the next few years. Perhaps I exaggerate but that was the intended aim of the Green Party Leadership election and each of the contenders had a vision for the next decade that aimed at making the party the third largest, overtaking the embattled Liberal Democrats, in so doing bringing their members’ cares and concerns to the forefront of political discourse.

The Green party’s members had quite an array of candidates, ranging from the far-left eco-socialist Romayne Phoenix to the self-made Peter Cranie and even a jaguar driving business woman in the form of Pippa Burlotti. For a party that received a meagre 0.9% of the vote in the 2010 election, yet still managed to return an MP, the sheer variety in the four leadership contenders is either a testament to the ‘Big Tent’ of the Green Party or a sign of a lack of definition as to what the Green Party is for. This election was an attempt to change that and provide, along with their ubiquitous MP in Caroline Lucas (Brighton North, MP), a Green voice on the national stage. If those were the two aims then with their choice today of Natalie Bennett they can at least be assured of the latter if not the former.

The Australian born journalist turned politician has seemingly worked everywhere and in every industry. She professes to have worked as a cleaner in a nightclub, on a factory production line, as an ‘Austrlian Volunteer Abroad’ and as a journalist in various guises across the world, from native New South Wales to Bangkok and finally as the editor of ‘The Guardian Weekly’ from 2007 to 2012. She joined the Green Party in 2006 as part of a New Years Resolution and hasn’t looked back since, being the founding chair of Green Party Women she has forced the issue of women’s participation to the mainstream of the party.

In all of this Natalie Bennett isn’t exactly the radical new politics that the Green Party claims to promote. She has expanded female participation in the party and speaks of extending her model to ‘other under-represented groups, including working-class members’ to break with what many see as a middle class bias, although, she is vague on how this would happen apart from merely being ‘active locally’. Natalie damns the Government’s economic policy as ‘illiterate’ and calls for investment in, you guessed it, energy conservation and renewable energy production.

So far so humdrum Green but the issue of this election is what this means for the UK. I say for the UK but I mean for England and Wales; the Green Party’s structure split the UK in 1990 into three parts so there is a party of Northern Ireland, of Scotland and of ‘England and Wales’. What it means for the political discourse of the nation is that there is now two public speakers for the party to appear at events and on national television making the case for the cause. This is an essential part of the marketing strategy that the party is employing, seeing that the Liberal Democrats natural voters are being alienated having shackled themselves in government the Green Party wants to attract them and tack the nation to the left in their own vision.

At present and it must be noted that we are roughly half-way through an unpopular parliament the Greens with their first MP have failed to make many inroads into the political environment, stuck on around 2-3% in the polls (a big mark up from 0.9% perhaps but hardly a breakthrough). In the meantime Labour have hoovered up Lib Dem voters and UKIP have absorbed lost Conservative votes to take them into regularly receiving double digit polls.

It’s here that the Green Party members have perhaps been the most savvy, for its exposure that gets you listened to by the average member of the public and Natalie Bennett can deliver on that through her connections in the media (especially the left leaning media). We can expect in the coming weeks and months for the Green Party (of England and Wales) to receive a sympathetic hearing from her friends in the Guardian and perhaps with her media nous she will manage in her aim of breaking ‘out of the Guardian ghetto into the higher circulation tabloid papers’.

Time will tell but there’s a distinct possibility that is Labour ignore the working classes in favour of more fertile middle class ground that the Green Party’s position on increasing lower wages, populist higher taxes on the rich and the rhetoric of investment not austerity will, with increased media attention, start to galvanise support for this minor party. By playing safe with policy but going for gold with media savvy the Green Party might just start to be seen, heard and perhaps even listened to.

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