The leader of the Greens, Natalie Bennett, apologised to party members for suffering a “mental brain fade” during an interview in which she appeared unable to answer basic questions about key policies.
Ms Bennett repeatedly lapsed into silence and struggled to explain how her party would pay for its ambitious housebuilding programme during an interview on LBC Radio to launch the Greens’ general election campaign.
Asked about proposals for building 500,000 social rental homes, Ms Bennett said the move would be funded by removing tax relief on mortgage interest for private landlords. But challenged several times on how much cash that would bring in, she appeared not to know saying: “Erm...well... that’s part of the whole costing.”
When the presenter Nick Ferrari moved on to ask about the overall cost of building the homes, Ms Bennett again appeared at a loss. “Right, well, that’s, erm…you’ve got a total cost… erm… that we’re… that will be spelt out in our manifesto,” she said.
Mr Ferrari shot back: “So you don’t know?”
Ms Bennett replied: “No. Well... err...”
After a few seconds’ more stalling, the party leader gave a figure of £2.7bn for the total cost of building the homes. But Mr Ferrari replied: “500,000 homes, £2.7bn – what are they made of, plywood?”
After a long pause, Ms Bennett said: “Um... At a cost of £60k per home...”
Suggesting that £60,000 would not pay for “much more than a large conservatory”, Mr Ferrari asked: “How are you going to pay for the land?”
Following another pause, Mr Bennett started coughing, prompting Mr Ferrari to ask her if she was all right. Ms Bennett said she was suffering from a “huge cold” but failed to elicit much sympathy from the presenter. “I’m terribly sorry to hear that,” he told her before adding: “You don’t actually know what this is going to cost, do you?”
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.
The Green leader said the party had a “fully costed programme” that would be published before the election. She then came up with a figure of “£6bn a year”, but seemed unclear what it related to. Later, speaking on the BBC’s Daily Politics, she said: “I had a very bad interview on housing this morning,” she said. “I am very happy to confess that and I am very sorry to the Green Party members who I did not do a very good job representing our policies on. That happens, I am human.”
Then, at a press conference officially launching the Greens’ election campaign, reporters asked Ms Bennett whether she had let the party down with the interview.
Baroness Jones, who was chairing the event, tried to block the question. But thanking the peer for her “kind attempt to protect me”, Ms Bennett conceded: “It was absolutely excruciating in the studio”. She added: “I’ve been presenting the Green Party’s policies up and down the country. I’m delighted with the response they get and I’m delighted to have the backing of all 54,000 Green Party members,” she said.
Later, she said she had suffered “a mental brain fade”.
During the launch event in central London, Ms Bennett insisted that the general election would be the “biggest, boldest campaign ever” for her party and told reporters that 90 per cent of voters in England and Wales would have a local Green candidate.
The party plans to campaign not just on environmental issues but also on re-balancing the economy, new affordable homes and the NHS. However, no specific policies were announced at the launch – that will not happen until they are signed off by special meeting next month. Of the 509 constituencies the party will fight, around 12 are key target seats. The Greens believe they can win between four and six seats at their current levels of support.Reuse content