Last Sunday’s appearance by Natalie Bennett on the Daily Politics, an interview in which she was thoroughly dismantled by Andrew Neil, has already become semi-legendary. For those of you yet to witness it, Bennett becomes completely unstuck. She has to fall back on the ultimate no-no for a politician: “All of the details are on our website”. As the leader of a political party you are expected to know the facts, at least the top line stuff. Problem for the Greens is that they are unused to being under the type of scrutiny witnessed on Sunday.
They’d better get used to it. A sudden poll surge means they are a threat to established interests. Both the right-wing and the left-wing press have reasons to go after them now; the Right because they are the antithesis of everything conservatives (both big and small “c”) stand for; the Left because the Greens picking up votes in large numbers is a threat to the Labour Party getting back into power. That, and the fact that saying you’re going to eliminate Britain’s standing army is a bit loopy, making it hard for any political journo to resist having a crack at your expense.
The key question to be asked off the back of the Daily Politics is this: do things like the Bennett/Neil fiasco really matter in terms of the Greens doing well in May? After all, if they are the reservoir for discontent on the Left, a sort of “UKIP of the Left” to put it crudely, won’t Green supporters just put it all down to some sort of to-be-expected Westminster lobby stitch-up? Farage gets away with this line a great deal, with stuff that is far more obviously toxic than simply appearing to be somewhat innumerate. But I suppose we’ve finally come to the heart of the matter: saying something a little weird, or possibly even offensive to large numbers of people, is one thing. Not knowing even the most basic detail of your flagship policy is another. The Greens can cry foul all they like, but surely they must have thought out the front page of their manifesto in some depth?
Perhaps the Greens poll surge into double figures is simply a glitch, a final, odd blip before the polls start to settle down into the serious business of a general election campaign. However, if it isn’t, the party should brace themselves for a lot more inspection by the media. With that in mind, they must have whomever does their frontline media appearance know precisely what they are talking about.
While they’re at it, they should probably rethink the Beyonce tax, the Zero Growth Economy (which really screws up their narrative on the citizens’ income incidentally), making it legally kosher to be part of a terrorist cell, and the leaving NATO thing. However, I am conscious I’m now just slightly making fun of the Greens, so I should probably stop right here.
Moral of this article: get Natalie some media training. You guys are going to need it if you insist on polling well.