Bristol Green Party aspires to positive campaigning because we believe the electorate is ill served by much of the negative bickering that too often seems to comprise the bulk of political discourse.
That is not to say that political debate should not be passionate, but that it also has a responsibility to be informed by the facts, and focused on the topic at hand.
For example, we are concerned at the ever-increasing tendency to dwell on personalities rather than policy, the negative stereotyping of entire groups of people based on some real or perceived common denominator, the tendency towards winning the “argument” at all costs regardless of the authenticity of the points used to score a win, and the increasing use of language designed to close down discussion.
We believe all of the above contribute to disenchantment with politics amongst the general public. This in turn leads to decreasing turnout at elections, an increasing lack of respect for the political process, and reluctance to engage in democratic decision making.
Another outcome to which negative campaigning contributes is for the public to have a false perception of some of the key social policy issues that are the subject of much political discussion.
A survey published in July 2013 by Ipsos-MORI on behalf of the Royal Statistical Society and King’s College, London found that;
- The public think that teenage pregnancy is 25 times higher than official estimates
- Almost 30% of us believe the government spends more on Job Seekers Allowance than it does on pensions when in fact we spend 15 times more on pensions.
- People estimate that benefit fraud is 34 times higher than official estimates
- Over a quarter of people think that overseas aid is one of the top three government expenditure items when in reality it only accounts for 1.1%
- We think that over 30% of the population is immigrant when official estimates are 13%, rising to 15% when calculations for illegal immigration are included.
Other areas where the general population held a view dramatically different from official figures included; crime levels, religion, election turnout, benefit capping, the number of pensioners, and so on.
If an informed electorate is the cornerstone of democracy then our democracy is facing a major crisis, one that may limit efforts to resolve many critical issues that need to be addressed in order to secure a stable future for ourselves and for future generations.
Not all the blame for this poor state of public awareness can be laid at the door of politicians of course.
In fact, the Royal Statistical Society identified three main reasons for the public’s general lack of awareness of social policy issues. They were; politicians and their spin, the education system and the way it teaches statistics, and journalists and their tendency to sensationalise.
Therefore, the mainstream media must also bear some of the responsibility for the lack of public awareness of the facts behind many of the key issues facing our country, and the world beyond.
We look forward to the media challenging ourselves and others to produce the evidential basis and the reasoning behind policies and public statements.
However, it is up to us as Bristol Green Party campaigners to take responsibility for our own actions and to seek to engage positively - not only with the media and other political campaigners but with the general public at large. We will seek not only to convince but also to inform, and, indeed, to be informed.
There already exists a strong tradition of positive campaigning within the Bristol Green Party, a tradition that we have, sometimes under considerable provocation, occasionally failed to maintain.
This text constitutes a reaffirming of our commitment to positive campaigning. We believe the public at large are tired of personal attacks and evidence-free propaganda, and we will not engage in, nor respond, to such attacks.
We will seek to not only to scrutinise any substantive failings we identify in policy proposals and statements published by others, but also to suggest, wherever possible, alternatives.
We believe that past mistakes, including our own as well as those of others, should inform debate on future policy proposals, not merely be used to attack those proposing new policy ideas
We will continue to deliver evidence based policy not policy based evidence.
We will continue to fight for the rights of ordinary citizens to challenge decisions made by those in authority – including those decisions supported by ourselves.
We will continue to fight for a fairer, more equal society
And finally, we hope that others will also make a similar commitment to positive campaigning.