I'm a fan of Graeme Archer, He was always one of the best contributors to Conservative Home and very much deserved his Orwell Prize win last year and the subsequent column in The Telegraph. His pieces are usually thought provoking and I find myself sometimes persuaded by him in a way I wasn't expecting.
But a piece he wrote recently for The Telegraph about the Green party in Brighton strikes me as unfair in a particular respect. Not for the main thrust of his piece. I have no experience of Brighton politics, so I can't comment on his assertions about their apparent left-wing and in his view rather odd priorities. What I can comment on though is this part of his piece:
The BBC gives Caroline Lucas a status her nationally unpopular Green Party doesn’t deserve; she is ubiquitous on Question Time. (If you think that’s Tory hard cheese: two of Brighton & Hove’s three parliamentary seats are represented by Conservatives. When was either Mike Weatherley or Simon Kirby invited on to the corporation’s flagship current affairs programme?)
It is very unfair on the Green party to suggest they are getting disproportionate coverage on a programme like Question Time. The party nationally got 0.9% of the vote at the last General Election which proportionally should have given them 6 MPs or so. Instead they got one. And that's the first time they have ever had one in this country despite a similar performance at other General Elections. But there is evidence that that vote is very much depressed precisely because of that electoral system. In the most recent European Parliament elections where a more proportional system actually is used, lo and behold they got 8.6% of the vote.
The BBC's job is to reflect a wide variety of views. A party that can poll nearly 10% in a national election (when smaller parties have a better chance of getting representation) surely deserves a decent crack of the whip?
But we can go a bit further than that. Thanks to some recent research by Unity from Ministry of Truth we know Caroline Lucas actually appeared 7 times from January 2009 until the start of this month. That's 112 episodes. With 5 panelists in each episode. So proportionally she has had 7/560 of the slots. That's 1.25%. Which is pretty close to their vote in the General Election. And way, way less than would be deserved from the party's performance in elections where voters know their choices will likely actually count, in other words what their true support in the country is likely to be when tactical voting is stripped away. If anything I think there is a case to be made that the Greens are not represented enough.
I fear that despite his talents, Graeme is a bit too ensconced in the bipartisanship of the Westminster game to see this.