Clifford Fleming explains why the Green Party’s low support level could largely be a result of its name
The Green Party are approaching their fortieth birthday. Over those forty years they’ve seen slow, but steady, growth across the country. In 2010 the country elected its first Green MP, Caroline Lucas in the city of Brighton. The Green Party now has two MEPs, a new leader (Natalie Bennett), many councillors, and even came third in the last elections for the London Assembly, pushing the Liberal Democrats into fourth.
But here’s the issue: there is an increasingly large gap in left-wing British politics and with the Green Party’s left-wing stance and policies, they should be doing better.
The British Labour Party in the 1990s took a radical step in modernisation under their re-brand, creating the centrist party of New Labour. This not only moved their politics to the right, but it amassed a huge amount of publicity and attention in the media (not to discount Tony Blair’s charisma). The idea of the re-brand was to communicate the modernization of the Labour Party, put forward a strong opposition to the lack-lustre Conservatives under Prime Minister John Major, and build up solid party-line rhetoric through the creation of a high-ranking communications leadership. Why did they do it? Over the previous twenty years of the 1970s and 1980s, the Labour Party looked increasingly unelectable due to their negative brand image. Many of the public had an image of the Labour Party in their head of a party that couldn’t handle the Unions and couldn’t get the country on its feet. By changing their name and re-branding Labour was re-born with an entirely new public perception.
That is the thing you see, public perception is hugely important in politics. The Conservative Party in the late 2000s desperately tried to update their image under a re-brand, but they didn’t change their name. Come 2010, even with a flailing Labour Party, they still couldn’t win the election out-right. Many of the public still have a clear image in their head of what they think the Conservative Party means – Thatcherism. It can be incredibly difficult for a party to distance themselves from the publicly-perceived mistakes of the past.
My proposal to the Green Party is simple – change your name and re-brand.
Many will argue that it comes from the ground-work; it comes from the hard work of every member in the party talking to the public to change their image. My point is this – you are forgetting the impact that the media has on British politics. What the media say about you matters, and it matters a lot! People may give the example of UKIP in how to build
up a media presence, but the problem here lies in that UKIP often pander to prejudices, especially the prejudices against the ‘foreigner’. I definitely would not condone this of any political party. Even though UKIP stand for far more than anti-immigration (including the fact they are the own libertarian party), their media personality has become that of the
British man condemning the outside World, and they are doing so well because in politics these days only the people who have strong opinions actually vote.
Re-naming the Green Party could ground their roots in the left of politics. A re-brand would encourage new public thinking beyond the perception of the tree-hugging environmentalist. A re-brand would also give the party the best possible bet of media coverage, and the best possible bet of more votes. Most people in the country don’t look up what policies political parties offer. What most people do is get their ballot card and vote, for who they think, from the media coverage, is the least rubbish. If the Green Party want people to think of them beyond the tree-hugger a re-name would help. The fact that the party stands for the nationalisation of public goods like the railways and have equality-based policies such as the Citizen’s Income (where everyone in society would receive a basic income from the state) are very left-wing policies indeed. Do people think of the Green Party as left-wing? Not generally.
The Green Party need to establish their roots in left-wing politics whilst the field is left open. A Labour Student may disagree with me and argue that the Labour Party is the true left-wing, socialist party. I’m sure their national heads of communication, however, would be moving very uncomfortably under these ideas. Centrist politics is the consensus now; pragmatism, the markets and choice. I’m sure even under Red Ed (Miliband) wouldn’t argue for a re-nationalisation of railways or a move towards more state provision and state ownership. The road to 2015 starts now for all of the parties in the UK and it’s time for the Green Party to capitalise on their left-wing beliefs and re-name and re-brand!