To underline the much-mentioned “green surge” – “and yes, that’s the hashtag”, announced Greens’ leader Natalie Bennett – the party today displayed the names of many of its 54,500 members – Darius from Horsham; Cordelia from London; Marisa from Glastonbury, etc. This was very much what this campaign launch was about.
What it very much wasn’t about, as steely chairperson (Baroness) Jenny Jones pointed out, was policy. “You can ask as many questions as you like about our manifesto but we won’t be answering them today,” she said sternly.
This may have been connected with Ms Bennett’s having spectacularly lost the plot on LBC radio about how the party would fund 500,000 new social homes. “Man,” the Baroness pronounced fiercely at one reporter, after clarifying she would be taking questions in strict “man-woman” rotation to preserve gender balance.
“Man”, from Sky News, suggested that the interview had been “excruciating” – Ms B nodded engagingly – and asked her whether she had let the party down. “She’s not going to answer that,” announced Jones. “Yes I will,” said Ms Bennett. “No, no, no ,” insisted Lady Jones.
The 9 worst car crash interviews in recent politics
The 9 worst car crash interviews in recent politics
1/6 Chloe Smith on Newsnight
George Osborne was enjoying a good day as he scrapped a planned 3p rise in fuel duty in June, 2012. But then someone had the bright idea of putting Chloe Smith, a junior Treasury minister and then something of a rising star for the Tories, on Newsnight. But she was unable to convincingly answer a single question posed to her by Jeremy Paxman, even the ultimate killer blow: “Do you ever think you’re incompetent?”
2/6 Boris Johnson on Andrew Marr
Eddie Mair, standing in for Mr Marr during his stroke recovery, might have been seen as something of a soft touch in March 2013 before he destroyed the London Mayor on the BBC’s flagship Sunday current affairs show. Mair presented a series of anecdotes about the harsher side to the fluffy-seeming Mr Johnson’s rise to power and concluded: “You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?” Boris didn’t quite seem to know how to respond.
3/6 Ed Miliband on Good Morning Britain
Labour’s leader faced some slightly inevitable accusations of being “out of touch with reality” from ITV’s Susannah Reid after she surprised him with a “how much does X cost question”. This time it was during an interview on how much he knew about his much-vaunted “cost of living crisis” – and Mr Miliband underestimated the average household grocery bill per week by about a third. He admitted he was wrong – but later tried to wriggle out of the situation by claiming he was only referring to “basic groceries” not his “overall shopping bill”.
4/6 Rachel Reeves on Daily Politics
The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary got very mixed up on whether Labour were promising “a freeze or a cap” – when energy prices actually stopped rising and fell. Refusing to accept that her party had enacted a u-turn on policy, she said: “It wasn’t us who changed – it’s the world that changed.” She later couldn’t give any examples of retail prices being successfully fixed by governments – stumping for “the minimum wage – the price of labour”.
5/6 David Cameron on Gay Times
Grilled on his MEPs’ voting records on gay rights in the European Parliament, a pre-prime ministerial Mr Cameron suggested they could vote any way they liked. But he also said the right not to suffer discrimination based on sexuality was a fundamental human right – meaning it should not be subject to an open vote. The former PR man got so flustered he had to ask for the cameras to be turned off because he was getting “distracted”.
6/6 Nigel Farage on LBC
Nigel Farage’s image as a plain-speaking, not-like-that-lot-in-Westminster politician suffered one of a number of dents in May 2014, when a tense 22-minute confrontation with LBC’s James O’Brien had to be cut short by his spin doctor. Patrick O’Flynn – who is now an MEP for Ukip – had to step in when Mr Farage was repeatedly questioned on his views on race and why he would be uncomfortable if a group of Romanian nationals moved in next door to him.
This schism within what would be, if Jenny Jones had her way, the Greens’ equivalent of Stalin’s politburo, with her playing Stalin, was actually resolved in favour of Ms Bennett, who defied the baroness by gamely pursuing the self-criticism option, explaining she had had a “mind-blank”.
“This happens,” she added, which is true, though not usually as epicly to party leaders. Let’s look on the bright side. While much sketchier on the err... detail than the fortunately present Caroline Lucas MP – she is super-imbued with the vision thing.
“The old way of doing things is falling apart,” she declared, in what could have been a reference to the art of being interviewed, but wasn’t. “The politics of hope is triumphing over the politics of fear.”
Secondly, it’s unlikely that most Green votes are cast on the basis of what she insisted would be “a fully costed manifesto” once the party’s “supreme policy-making body” had considered it.
Earlier, chairperson Jones had introduced Darren Hall “the next MP for Bristol West”, who had been working “in the green fields for some time now”. This bucolic image conjured a herdsman, but in fact referred to his recent environment-minded job on Bristol City Council.
Illustrating the breadth of the party’s appeal, Hall said he was not a “deep Green person”. More pistachio perhaps, or chartreuse. That’s the diversity of a party on the rise. Fifty shades of Green!