After two recent interviews which have been uncomfortable for Natalie Bennett and the Green Party, it seems inevitable that she and the party will do a great deal to avoid similar results again. However as those on the receiving end of such media output, we need too be listened to by the broadcasters too. For all sorts of obvious reasons the media appear to treat all party leaders in a similar manner, asking for detailed answers to policy questions, trying to catch them out on the detail and failing to explore the big picture behind such ideas. However it is clear from the last General Election that even the might of Conservative Central Office with their Millions to spend on media preparation and policy development, cannot anticipate what we the electorate will serve up to them. Hence the numerous U turns and redesigns of policy that took place after the coalition was formed. Some of these were difficult for the two parties and moved them onto ground they were unhappy with, and others such as the broken promise not to perform a top down reorganisation of the health service, appears to be a case of the coalition giving certain Tories the excuse they wanted to deviate from their manifesto by 180 degrees.
Although all of us have an analytical streak, as I understand it, this is a minor element in most people. In any event the idea that anyone thinks the Green Party will be anything more than a small part of a future, broadly left wing Government is of course nonsense. This means that the detailed elements of any of the Green Policy is not really fruitful ground for broadcasters if they want to communicate effectively. What seems much more important, particularly given the experience of the only Green Council in the UK would be to test the party on how it would work in a Parliament if perhaps 3-5 Green MPs were able to swing a vote towards one element or another of a national policy that would have been drafted by the majority partner. Would all of the Greens vote together (as a national audience may wish) or will they individually follow their consciences? What will the party do to prepare and train any successful MPs in the election so that they each achieve the same sort of impact that the very experienced Caroline Lucas has. If I was not living in Brighton Pavilion and tempted to vote Green, I would want some reassurance that I was not voting for someone who would spend 5 years as a outspoken protestor, but rather use the time well both as a good constituency MP (which Caroline does very well) and also look for good opportunities to advocate for the environment and the areas of social justice that appear to be at the core of the Green party ideas. Again this is an area where Caroline Lucas has proven to be very effective.
As I have written before, the end of a 2.3 Political Party culture which is becoming increasingly clear, will demand a change for our politicians and how they behave, but so to will it demand a different approach from the media. In many ways it is the media who have the most to learn. They need to move away from an A vs B argument in which both sides of the argument are familiar to the reporter and politicians alike. Instead we could be looking at an A + D + E vs B + C + F set of arguments. A detailed understanding of any one of the policies of one of the smaller parties may be far less important than the overall impact of the combination of minor parties on the coalition as a whole. We need our broadcasters to consider what they should be aiming to achieve in all of these political interviews. A car crash might generate a great deal of twitter output in the short term, but its hard to see how it really furthers understanding of policies and future behaviour. One of my biggest frustrations with the current political discourse is when a Government spokesperson is not available for comment. Wider coalitions must surely reduce the likelihood of such no-shows which is a good thing for all of us in our future understanding.