Natalie Bennett should choose to admit ignorance, not to ignore the question
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett’s recent interview on LBC Radio with Nick Ferrari was unequivocally awful.
The protracted silences and evasive answers made this an uncomfortable listen for someone with Green sympathies such as myself. The main issue however is not necessarily that Bennett was uncertain of her figures; this happens fairly periodically to many politicians.
Any search of Newsnight interviews during the tenure of Jeremy Paxman reveals a whole host of prevaricating MPs; his in turn aggressive interview style is what made the show popular in the first place. Forgetting or uncertainty aside, politicians are also humans – Bennett perhaps more so than most – so that I’m inclined to forgive her for a lack of statistical recall under pressure.
However, whilst a lack of preparation for figures is slightly frustrating, the primary issue at play here in this interview is the choice Bennett made to try and evade those questions when she clearly could not produce, or was challenged on, a figure for the instigation of the Green Party’s social housing policy.
In the long run, I argue it would be better to just concede that you don’t know, rather than insult the intelligence of the listener by skirting the issue and giving the interviewer recourse for increasingly agitated repetition.
This is the behaviour of the particulars of the existing establishment, not that of a ‘new politics’ endorsed by the Green Party and attracting increasing party membership. How will it be possible to sustain this growing political engagement when the party leader is complicit in the behaviours that spearheaded popular mistrust of politicians in the first place?
However, this being said, the traction of this story in the media reflects the threat that the growing Green popularity has to mainstream politics, and the Labour party’s diminishing voter base in particular.
Whilst, as Guardian columnist Owen Jones observed, this interview represents an exasperating loss of political opportunity for the Green’s, I ardently hope this lapse does not falter the momentum of a very necessary Green movement away from business-as-usual politics.
This needs to be reflected in an informed, practical and honest leader before voters are alienated by an apparent assimilation with the Westminster establishment. The prospect of another five years of a Tory majority parliament instigating pro-rich and weak climate policy mean this is a battle that cannot afford to be lost.