They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. There are a few ex-politicians languishing in prison just now who might beg to differ. But broadly, especially for Greens – who are marginalised by arcane broadcaster rules over media coverage – any opportunity to get over a message is a good thing.
That’s why all parties, this election, including the Greens, seem to producing tabloid newspapers. These vary in quality, with none, however, as deeply excrutiating as the Lib Dems’ “Heat”-style “City Life”.
I was surprised, nonetheless, to see in Labour’s Edinburgh Southern tabloid a prominent picture of ex-Green MSP, Robin Harper and his would-be replacement, Alison Johnstone. Is this a new trend of generosity to rival parties by Labour’s candidate, Paul Godzik?
Perhaps not. Paul may have many characteristics, good and bad, but generosity to other political parties is not one of them. He’s seeking election to Edinburgh Southern, a new constituency, mostly made up of the old Edinburgh South where the incumbent Lib Dem MSP, Mike Pringle, has been well dug-in. Labour has, of course, calculated that something like 12-20% of voters in Edinburgh Southern are very likely to cast their second votes for the Greens to elect Alison Johnstone as a Green regional MSP. That leaves several thousand votes footloose when it comes to selecting the constituency MSP, as the Greens are not standing in that contest.
So, the photo implicitly says, you may be Green-inclined for your second vote, but why not vote Labour with your first vote?
This is the fourth Scottish election and, over the years, Greens have occasionally been asked where we would recommend people place their first votes. We’d never be so presumptious as to advise people. But Labour’s refusal to rule out nuclear power, its backing for a second road bridge over the Forth, its ambiguity on public sector service cuts are all indications of a bigger gulf in values and ideas than the photo seeks to imply.
In fact, the effect might be the opposite to that intended. Even with Labour’s poll lead shrinking, it is still likely to pick up a disproportionately high number of constituencies in Lothian. Labour second votes are almost inevitably not going to elect any regional MSPs. So the message even to loyal Labour voters may just be to focus second votes on the Greens where 6% will elect Alison as Green MSP.
That would be good advice.