It’s always a tough transition going from one stage in life to the next and the transition from spectator to player in the arena is a fraught and dangerous one to make. The opinions, views, criticisms and plans that you could utter and think of in the stands are now contested sharply and bitterly by experienced opponents who have been in the game far longer and who have years of adaptation and organisation behind them.
This not so subtle reference is in regard to the week gone past where UKIP and the Greens suffered what seemed to be a PR problem akin to the Miliband bacon sandwich-gate. For some reason I thought these parties were different, that they were of a new stock and new way of thinking and behaving that meant they wouldn’t become like and endure the mishaps and PR calamities that befell the large major parties. There was such a sense of hype and newness built up around these ‘fringe’ parties that have been threatening to turn our political system into a Borgen-esque parade that there was quite a sudden deflation last week. The realisation that UKIP and even the Greens were just as useless sometimes at it all and that much the same could be expected from parties claiming not to be in the ‘Westminster bubble’ was an quite ironic experience.
Natalie Bennetts not so graceful interview on the Sunday politics show with Andrew Neil was both cringing to watch and painful to listen to. Here was the fresh new promise, the bright beaming star in the sky, the new crop of politics sat before our eyes, promising to lead us to a new and brighter political future. The myth rarely compared with reality though and it is the same for the Green party as much with the others. In an age of social media where parties can shine and promote themselves with much pomp and ceremony and carefully crafted media tricks the intense scrutiny that Natalie Bennett suffered was actually welcome for a change as it highlighted the danger of lofty ideals talked about and policy implementations considered.
Andrew Neil has thankfully lifted the veil on the Green party and shown it for what it really is, a fledgling party that seeks a utopian policy settlement that ignores the larger world around it. And for a party that claims to be very considerate of the larger world and environment it seems pretty willing to shut Britain off from the world community which we need to work with to make substantial change.
Who needs NATO anyway or the EU. Reciprocity is key in international relations and if other countries don’t see you mucking in then they won’t want anything to do with you eventually. The Green party got a sniff of reality from Andrew Neil and whilst they do have potential in British politics it remains to be seen if the party leadership can learn from this and maturely make the necessary changes to promote credible, workable and at the same time fresh new thinking.
The other player that has perhaps been in the arena slightly longer than the Greens is UKIP. But time isn’t the guarantor of experience and with the defection of UKIP MEP Amjad Bashir the party got an unwelcome taste of its own medicine last week and one that will most likely leave a bad taste. Defecting Conservatives was the mainstay of UKIP presence and political primetime strategy. I kind of looked forward to when the next one would happen and who would be considered on the defecting shortlist. But alas that joy has slightly evaporated as UKIP now faces a general election that is increasing in tempo and dividing lines. Polls come in, numbers change, allegiances change and media mistakes happen and UKIP has at times provided impetus for moderates to jump the UKIP ship when it seems to steer into rocky waters.
Party discipline and policy coherence are key points to address, especially as a main contender in a general election. Every vote counts, every word matters, every opinion divides or unites.
Though Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems aren’t perfect they do have the machinery and experience of running in general elections for decades and this sub-conscious feeling is one that helps them to weather the storm a bit easier than the newer parties.
I’m sure there will be more mishaps and wrong footed strategies in the election. The newer actors to the arena though must tread carefully and play the game to some extent in order to square up to the older more experience players, but flair and difference is what raises a shout of joy from the spectators and if they can do this then they stand a fair chance.
By Connor Smart, Junior Writer for Daily Political View.