Green Party leader Natalie Bennett must learn from her disastrous LBC interview


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The Independent Online

Today did not end quite so disastrously as it began for the leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett. If the leader of any of the main parties had put in such a toe-curlingly awful interview as she did, early in the morning on LBC radio, the following day’s papers would be full of speculation about an impending leadership contest. But by frankly apologising at the first opportunity and admitting that the interview had been “excruciating”, Ms Bennett made the best of a very bad lapse.

But her stammering, faltering performance under gentle questioning is indicative of a potentially serious problem which the Green Party will have to sort out, now that it has a chance of becoming a player in a fragmented political scene. It is a question of whether it wants to be a mainstream left-of-centre political party with a strong environmental agenda, or a fringe group spouting difficult and impossible demands without caring about the practical consequences.

Building 500,000 homes for rent would be a vast, complex and expensive operation, as Ms Bennett’s interviewer gently and reasonably pointed out, plunging her into confusion. Taking the whole rail network back into public ownership, as the Greens have promised to do, is also fraught with difficulty. And Nick Clegg could tell the party a thing or two about the pitfalls of its promise to abolish tuition fees.

The Greens add to our democracy by advocating radical policies that bigger parties will not touch – but only if they acknowledge the expense and potential social upheaval that their programme entails, and offer some account of how they would pay for it and execute it. If they just wish away the difficulties, as ultra-left sects often do, they forfeit their right to be taken seriously.