This Thursday’s parliamentary by-election in Newark is interesting for a number of reasons. This should be a safe Tory seat, so how will they cope with the UKIP challenge? How also will Labour do less than 12 months from a general election? And will the Liberal Democrats get another hammering from voters after their four years in coalition?
But then there is the Green Party. It was 1992 when a Green candidate last stood for the parliamentary seat, securing a meagre 435 votes. I’m confident that David Kirwan will do considerably better this time, but that of course will be despite an almost total media blackout.
Indeed, it looks very much like the mainstream media is continuing its apparent policy of ignoring the Green Party. While UKIP still has seemingly endless coverage, the Greens have been marginalised, so much so that an online petition criticising the BBC has, last time I checked, has now secured almost 45,000 signatures.
So I decided to see what Google could find today about the Green Party campaign in Newark. Not surprisingly, most of the main hits came from the Green Party itself (website or blogs). Indeed, the only news media websites that have reported anything other than the name of the candidate appear to be the Newark Advertiser and the Nottingham Post. Both reported in feature articles on Natalie Bennett’s visit in order to campaign alongside David, while the Post also gave a paragraph to David in a report about a particular hustings event.
To be fair to the BBC, their East Midlands Today programme also reported on Natalie Bennett’s visit to the constituency. I actually saw this, and it made a refreshing change to hear Natalie’s point of view, albeit edited down to just a minute or so.
Now some people may argue that local coverage on the BBC and in two local newspapers is reasonable. But in contrast Google found plenty of by-election stories devoted UKIP, the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems. While I accept that Tory prospects in the face of a UKIP media bandwagon is newsworthy, I do wonder what exactly the Green Party needs to do in order to get anything approaching fair media coverage. Recently performing better than the Lib Dems clearly isn’t enough, nor it seems does having an MP, three MEPs, two London Assembly members, a member in the House of Lords, control of one council and of course being the official opposition in a number of others.
As for the likely result of this by-election, we will know that soon enough. I think for many of us, our biggest fear would be a UKIP victory. Recent polls suggest this will not happen, with the Tories winning comfortably. So setting that aside, I simply want to see a good result for the Greens, and enough of a Labour vote to give me some confidence so that come next May, we won’t be waking up to another Tory government.