Posing left

Phil Hamilton looks at the Green Party's web presence

In addition to the Scottish Socialist Party, the other big winner in the May 1 election to the Holyrood parliament was the Green Party, which managed to scoop seven MSPs in the proportional representation-based list vote.

It was therefore surprising not to see any mention of this achievement on the home page of the party's website. Other than an annoying flashing message at the top of the screen ("If not us, who? If not now, when? Stand up and be counted. Join the Green Party."), the first item of interest is 'Leaving Labour'. Clearly trying to strike a leftish pose, a short article lists the litany of Blair's crimes, focusing on the war, neoliberalism and attacks on the firefighters. Interestingly the 'e' word (environment) only gets mentioned once. The piece is peppered with hyperlinks (in a manner similar to online versions of the Weekly Worker), allowing the viewer to rapidly survey key areas of interest. The article also serves as a preamble to a longer document of the same name aimed at a Labourite audience, helped along with anecdotal reports from activists that have made the break.

The next item, 'Topical comments', leads to a very comprehensive news page with 34 different subject headings. Clicking on 'Iraq' for instance took me to further material grouped under more subheadings: 'Comment' (views of various spokespersons), 'Articles', 'Press releases', and 'Speeches'. Along the top of the main comment page we have media contact details in 'Press office', and news from the London assembly. 'MSP news' directs us to the home page of the Scottish Greens, a site that is on the whole less cluttered, better designed " and green! The final link in this set is to the news archive page, running intermittently back to summer 1998.

Returning to the home page, the layout is divided into three sections. Beginning with the centre we have 'Latest news'. Buried away on the next news page are the local and Scottish election results. Actually this in itself is not a bad thing, indicating that the website is updated when necessary rather than once in a blue moon.

The right side of the screen is given over to Green Party links. We are invited to subscribe to their information list, but if the volume of on-site news is anything to go by, I would recommend that comrades empty their inboxes prior to joining. The next five boxes refer to the Greens regionally: London, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and European sites are given. Judging from this list, one can only presume that nothing of import ever happens in the rest of England to justify any other regional websites. Following these we have a 'frequently asked questions' box, providing national structure details, electoral progress, history, statements on ethical trade and the party 'programme', Manifesto for a sustainable society. This also includes statements on core values and philosophy, which sound nice but are ultimately vague. The 'Young people' box links to an array of external education links and the 'Young Green' site - yet another that is better designed than its parent. Rounding this column off are more reports on runways, congestion charges, etc.

The left hand bar is more of a navigational tool around the site. A lot of the links take us to sections of the site already explored previously. Interesting sections here include 'Conferences'. This page carries policy decisions and documents from the spring and autumn gatherings over the past six years. Unfortunately these offer a sanitised picture of the Greens, with no mention of unsuccessful motions or anything passing as an analysis of the events. The 'Members' link is a nice touch as well, giving the party a more human face with photos, music, jobs, and website support. 'Events' is self-explanatory, cataloguing important upcoming vigils, demos, and "gatherings". Finally, the 'Contacts and links' page is a minimal affair. Links to elected members, green parties nationally and internationally, and other green-related sites are neatly parcelled away under their own headings. This part is certainly interesting, linking the kinds of sites you would expect featured on Urban 75 or Globalise Resistance.

Overall the Greens are to be congratulated for keeping this site constantly updated, appearing to treat their website as if it were an integral part of their organisation. The rest of the left would do well to take note of this approach.