In Defence Of Natalie Bennett

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By now you’re probably aware of Natalie Bennett’s awkward interview on LBC where she stumbled when asked to say how the Greens planned to fund their flagship housing policy. If you haven’t actually heard it, then here it is.

Especially coming on the heels of her back-foot performance on Sunday Politics, I’ve seen plenty smug comments from mainstream media, Westminster loyalists in shades of Blue, Red and Yellow as well as UKIP supporters asserting that this shows how the Greens are not a credible party to vote for, that they are in ‘meltdown’ and so on.

This is, of course, utter bollocks.

For a start, such stumbles are to be expected as the Greens and their high profile members adjust to a new level of media attention, never mind aggression.

It’s true that Natalie Bennett is not the slickest media personality but then that isn’t what the Greens are about. She might well stumble in the face of cross-examination but she deserves immense credit for marshaling the Green party south of the border into the potential electoral force it is today, for doubling their membership and average polling and bringing the party to the point where winning more than one MP in May is not unrealistic.

So Bennett failed to come up with a snappy answer to the question of how the policy would be funded and seemed overwhelmed against Andrew Neil, but nobody seems to have picked up that she tried to give straight answers and then admitted when she couldn’t – to the extent where she actually apologised for her performance.

I’d much rather place my trust in someone who tries to answer, fails and then admits their mistakes than the usual political talking head which either lies or evades the question.

It’s also true that obvious answers to the question of how such policies might be funded, like actually cracking down on tax avoidance by big business and the rich, raising progressive taxes and not making reducing the deficit an immediate concern would have been immediately spun by the media as ‘Greens Will Raise Taxes’ and ‘Greens Debt Mountain’ and being aware of this, Natalie hesitated and that was fatal.

Everything the Greens stand for is an affront to the status quo and the Westminster parties and their corporate sponsored allies in the mainstream media will take every opportunity to try and reduce the Greens threat by demeaning them and their policies.

This is in direct contrast to the usual treatment of mainstream politicians who receive soft interviews where they are not pressed on important issues and are allowed to make laughable assertions almost unchallenged.

A signal example of this is the way that Conservative politicians can routinely trot out lines about how they have reduced the deficit and how Labour cannot be trusted to run the economy without having the actual facts that the deficit is no lower now than it was in 2010 and that in the intervening five years George Osborne has borrowed more than every Labour chancellor in history combined.

For some reasons, the Conservatives never get caught out in that kind of lie, but the media jump all over a relatively minor party not having a pat answer to how a policy will be funded or choose to completely misrepresent comments made by that minor party.

It reminds me of a quote from some guy you might have heard of, Mahatma Gandhi.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

When judging Natalie Bennett and the Greens in general, I would ask you to look past their performance in the media, because let’s be honest, most politicians and spokespeople are essentially professional snake oil salesmen and the earnest passion of the Greens doesn’t scan too well in a hostile, five minute interview compared to that kind of slickness and evasion.

Instead of judging the Greens by their relative lack of media training, I’d point you to another quote, adopted from an Arabic proveb by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.”

The Greens enemies are the establishment, the vested interests, the tax evaders, the polluters, the exploiters and the profiteers.

Make of that what you will.

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