I finally gave in to biology and went to bed at 1.00am last night, after 2 hours of political coverage on the telly which did not mention the Green Party even once. You wouldn’t know they even existed. Meanwhile the effect of the large swing of votes to UKIP was looked at from every imaginable angle. I imagine that Green activists were probably getting a bit frustrated. But as an interested but not particularly engaged observer I concluded that the Greens were probably better off without it. The Greens have never really attracted much attention in the media, but have managed to win a Westminster seat and to control a local council. These are significant achievements. UKIP haven’t managed either yet. Solid achievements like that don’t just happen. They must have assembled a team of committed people to do it and to have won over a lot of people who don’t have much time for politics.
So lack of attention from the papers and the telly doesn’t stop the Greens making worthwhile progress.
Now had the Greens got the sort of exposure that UKIP have been getting, that would no doubt have translated into more votes, more councillors and a higher profile generally. What’s not to like? I think the answer is that quick fixes give rise to long term headaches. Much as a nationwide surge in support makes for exciting television, it doesn’t give you good results. We have already seen that UKIP has attracted some distinctly odd people as candidates. Some of those will have been elected. Who knows what they will be getting up to in their terms of office. Many of them will have only the vaguest of notions of what a local council even does. I predict horror stories ahead. But even for the normal UKIP councillors, they have been handed a prize they haven’t worked for and won’t have built up the skills needed to use it. They are no doubt as capable as anyone else of acquiring them, but these things always take time.
The news story between now and the election is going to be all about whether the Conservatives will have a pact with UKIP. The pundits will be getting their spreadsheets out. Interviews are going to be all about electoral tactics. If you have some actual beliefs you want to put into practice, none of this will help.
I am not unsympathetic to UKIP. I don’t share any of their values and I won’t be voting for them. But I recognise that they have some ideas and that they represent a very strong strand of opinion in the country. I hope that they continue to exist. But I wonder if in ten years time they might have wished they grew in a more organic way and learnt the art of politics on the ground rather than in the TV studio.