Thursday, 16 October 2014

The public want to hear what the Green Party have to say

After the BBC and the corporate broadcasters (ITV, Sky and Channel 4) colluded to exclude the Green Party from the pre-election leaders' debates I wrote an article detailing 12 reasons why the Green Party should be included. In this article I'm going to discuss another reason they should be included; the fact that the public want to hear what they've got to say.

After the decision was made to invite the four pro-austerity parties to the debates, and exclude the anti-austerity Green Party (and other anti-austerity parties like the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Respect) YouGov conducted a poll on whether the Green party should be invited.

A strong majority of those who answered the question decisively said that the Green Party should be included in the debates. If the "don't knows" are excluded from the results, the public voted 60-40 in favour of Green Party representation in the debate.

A closer look at these results reveals something very interesting indeed. The majority of self-declared supporters of the Labour Party (57%) and the Lib Dems (66%) voted that the Green leader Natalie Bennett should not be excluded from the debate, whilst a clear majority of self declared supporters of the Tory party (54%) voted that she should be excluded. UKIP supporters also voted slightly in favour of her exclusion (45% to 41%).

The reason that this is so interesting is that the Green Party are much more likely to appeal to the more left-wing demographics of the Labour Party and the Lib-Dems, meaning that the supporters of these parties actually voted against the self-interest of their own parties to favour the inclusion of a candidate who might well end up taking a lot of votes from their parties.

The idea that the Greens are more appealing to Labour and Lib Dem voters isn't idle speculation either. The polling data shows that 33% of self-declared Lib Dem supporters are considering a switch to the Green Party, and 22% of Labour supporters are also toying with the idea of voting Green. These results contrast sharply with the two even more right-wing pro-austerity parties. Only 6% of Tory supporters and 5% of UKIP supporters are considering the idea of voting Green.

The fact that Lib Dem and Labour supporters are much more open to the idea of voting Green is not surprising. Several of the Green Party manifesto commitments should appeal strongly to traditional supporters of these two parties. Renationalisation of the energy companies and railways, Universal Basic Income and wealth taxes should appeal to traditional Labour supporters, and free university education, defence of citizens' rights and electoral reform should appeal to Liberal Democrat voters.

What is surprising is the fact that the majority of Tory and UKIP supporters are so opposed to the idea of inclusion of a party that could split the Labour vote. It's kind of understandable from a UKIP perspective because they'd clearly rather be cast by the mainstream press as "the only alternative" rather than competing with the Greens to offer the best critique of the establishment parties, and the best set of alternative policies.

The much stronger opposition from the Tory party faithful is a lot harder to fathom. It's as if they're so strongly opposed to the idea of allowing an unashamedly left-wing party to have a voice in the debate, that they'd sacrifice their own parties self-interest.
The desire of the Tory majority to make sure genuine left-wing voices are locked out of the debate altogether makes quite safe to conclude that the majority of Tory voters do not agree with the maxim that is so often used to describe the views of Voltaire. The majority of Tory supporters would not sympathise with "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". In fact their version would be more like "I disapprove of what you say, so I will strive to ensure that nobody else gets to hear it".

The motivation behind this strong Tory opposition seems to stem from old fashioned moral authoritarianism, which is the idea that you as an individual get to determine what is correct for everyone else. Therefore in the Tory mind "I don't like their policies so I don't want to hear them" morphs into "I don't like their policies, therefore nobody should be allowed to hear them".

This moral authoritarian attitude 
amongst the Tory faithful that dissenting voices are best kept quiet is mirrored by the policy proposals of their party. It's just a couple of weeks since Theresa May announced her draconian new plans to revoke the right to freedom of speech from people who have committed no criminal offence whatever. If the majority of the Tory party feel the need to snuff out dissenting voices, it's no wonder the Tory leadership feel that they can get away with attacking the freedom of speech of law abiding people simply because they say disagreeable, but not unlawful things.

Conclusion - What we can do?

It is clear that the public want to hear what the Green party have to say. If supporters of the Tory party are stripped out of the equation (because of the strong opposition to the principles of free speech displayed by their party leaders and their supporters alike) then the consensus is even more clear.

The BBC and the mainstream media seem quite determined to make the leaders' debates closed ideology echo chambers featuring only pro-austrity parties, however there are a few things we can do to fight back against this deliberate effort to limit the spectrum of political debate.

  • We can make sure to share social media content from the Green Party, the Scottish Greens and other parties like the SNP and Plaid Cymru, in order to try to counterbalance the bias of the mainstream media, and ensure that as many people as possible are informed about the policies of the non-traditional parties the mainstream media are clearly intent on denying coverage to.
  • Joining the Green Party is another option. There are well over a million Green Party voters out there, so if just a small proportion of them joined the party in order to help them fight back against the hostility of the mainstream media, the Green Party would soon overtake the Liberal Democrats in terms of party membership. The additional bonus in joining the Green Party is that you could try to influence their policies, which is possible because, despite the Lib-Dem lies to the contrary, the Green Party have by far the most democratic structure, where all members have the right to vote on party policy. Here's the link to join the Green Party of England and Wales, and here's the link to join the Scottish Green Party.

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