Greens and the environment at #GE2017

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme had an interesting couple of pieces on the Green Party this morning (starts 2h30mins in), looking at how Labour squeezed the Greens and asking whether the party needs to go back to focusing on its single defining issue – the environment.

Jonathan Bartley, the party’s co-leader, sounded rather exasperated at having to explain that they do nothing but speak about the environment.

But looking at the data from the party’s Facebook feed, the environment was not clearly prioritised above all else.

green policy areas

While the environment was a big issue, in fact the party spent a large amount of time talking about other things too. A range of policies came up – for example the importance of taking a positive approach to immigration, opposition to Brexit, and the importance of LGBT rights, something the Greens spoke about far more than other parties.

However, what they really spent time talking about was the horse race, the likely jockeying for position after the election, the feeling that they were discriminated against by the BBC in comparison to UKIP, and the desire to create a progressive alliance to oppose the Conservatives.

They also spent a lot of time talking about Theresa May’s failures as a leader, especially in ducking the TV debates.

Jonathan Bartley’s personal Facebook account tells a similar story.

Bartley policy areas

As does the account of the party’s other co-leader and only MP, Caroline Lucas.

Lucas policy areas

Now, of course you can argue that protection of the environment and opposition to climate change is the base-line from which all other Green party policy is developed but to suggest that they spoke about it to the exclusion of all else really isn’t accurate.

The existential challenge for the Greens is to find a distinctive offer that ensures at least some electoral support and doesn’t see them out-flanked by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.

If they can’t, then what is the point of the Greens?

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Endless debates about TV debates

Surprise move: David Cameron appointed Craig Oliver

I’m not going to rehearse the debate about TV election debates; I’ve made clear I think they should happen and will happen in the short campaign.

But I think it’s worth noting that in trying to do David Cameron’s bidding in scuppering the debates, Craig OIiver seems to have managed to achieve the worst of all worlds.

Cameron consistently said he thought they sucked the life out of the 2010 campaign – although politicians are always likely to say this about debates they haven’t won.

Still, the Prime Minister’s determination not to let them take place again has led to a confrontation with the broadcasters at precisely the wrong point in the electoral calendar.

I know Craig from ITN and he’s a smart operator. But it’s clear he thought the broadcasters would back down when faced with a point-blank refusal from No 10.

That strategy has blown up in his face because of a surprisingly firm response from the broadcasters.

Now Labour’s chicken charge is sticking, it’s getting traction with the public, and that can only get worse from now on.

If Cameron doesn’t take part in the debates, he’s a chicken. If he does take part, he’s a flip-flop chicken.

Downing Street’s only hope for a way out of the impasse is a failure of nerve and splits among the broadcasters to emerge. Cue Lord Grade.