The Conversation: Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader

 

You were born, raised and schooled in Australia and worked in Thailand – how did you find yourself leading the Green Party of England and Wales?

If you'd told me five years ago that this was where I'd be now I would have been absolutely astonished. I joined the party on 1 January 2006 as a New Year's resolution. I looked at the state of the world… and thought this is getting frighteningly bad, I should do something. So more or less on a whim I joined the Green Party.

Your nearest rival in British politics is, I suppose, Nigel Farage. What would you say to him (over a pint)?

It would be difficult for the conversation to remain civil, unless we stuck to the weather.

Ukip are riding the wave of popular disillusion with mainstream politics – why aren't the Greens doing as well?

Ukip are offering simple, populist, right-wing solutions, which lots of people find appealing even though they are utterly wrong in their arguments and are not solutions to anything. People do find simple answers to complex problems very attractive.

So how do you persuade voters that the Green Party has a message that is not just about grow-your-own vegetables and windmills? Is there a slogan?

Not yet – but some of the issues we'll be fighting on will be jobs you can build a life on, a living wage, renationalising the railways, zero tuition fees, protecting the NHS – political ground no one is even near.

It's fair to say that Caroline Lucas, your predecessor and the only Green MP, is still your party's most high-profile figure rather than you, the leader. How have you carved your own path?

In my first six months as leader I've done a great deal of travelling around the country in a way that would have been utterly impossible for Caroline, who has responsibilities in Westminster and responsibilities in Brighton. The work I've been doing may not be visible on the national stage, but has been in regional media, at regional public meetings – very much out of the Westminster bubble.

Will you try to join her in Parliament at the next election?

It's likely I will be running in Holborn and St Pancras.

How many MPs are you aiming to have in 2015?

Our first priority is to retain Brighton Pavilion [Caroline Lucas's seat]. We also have a strong chance in Norwich South. Beyond those we want to become a truly national party. We're identifying 10 advance seats around the country, so that every Green Party member has a seat close to them where we'll be running a decent campaign.

Would you go into a coalition?

Never say never in politics. But we'd be more likely to look at a 'confidence and supply' agreement. We've seen the cost of small parties selling out for ministerial cars – as the Lib Dems did.

How does an Australian background go down in British politics?

Australians aren't always diplomatic or tactful – they tend to call a spade a spade. Inevitably I bring that cultural background to politics, which one or two people have sometimes highlighted.

You have said you are the only British political leader who can shear a sheep – have Clegg, Cameron or Miliband challenged you on that?

No one seems to have made an alternative claim.

Biography

Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. She was born in Sydney, Australia and after studying agricultural sciences she became a journalist, before entering politics. She lives in north London

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?