Do the Green Party’s policies stack up? Although its membership and prominence have rocketed in recent weeks, little focus has been put on what the party campaigns for. Green leader Natalie Bennett was subjected to a dissection of her party’s principles on the Sunday Politics today (watch above) and demonstrated why most of its proposals are pipe dreams.
Bennett said her party wants to ensure ‘nobody is living in fear’ but exactly how they would pay for that remains unanswered. One of its policies would be a ‘Citizens’ Income’, ensuring everyone has a minimum weekly income of £72. This would cost up to £280 billion and Bennett said it would be funded in part by abolishing Jobseeker’s Allowance (cost: £3 billion) and scrapping the personal tax free allowance. Yet neither of these would come anywhere near paying for the Citizens’ Income.
Another Green policy is to introduce a wealth tax, which Bennett said would produce £32 billion and £45 billion — funding a quarter to half of the NHS. After Andrew Neil pointed to wealth taxes in other European countries, which have failed to bring in anywhere near that amount, Bennett excused this as different counties with different economies. On the Green plan to raise the top rate of tax, Bennett didn’t know to what level but denied the rich would flee the country.
Flying her anti-Ukip flag, Bennett wants to ‘stop the race to the bottom on immigration rhetoric’ and acknowledged her party wants to relax immigration controls in the medium/long term. Bennett also argued that the army needs shrinking, saying the British arms industry is ‘heavily export-focused’ at present and deflected the questioning by saying ‘a lot of people at the moment think our relationship with Saudi Arabia is a bigger issue’.
Most bizarrely, Bennett agreed that her party would make it legal for people to be a member or sympathiser of a terrorist organisation like al-Qaeda or ISIS – a policy going back to the days of the ANC. Although it would still be illegal to incite or support violence, Bennett thinks we should ‘not punish people for what they think or what they believe’.
The only straight answer Bennett was able to give was on the TV leaders’ debates. Although the Greens ‘are not a one woman or one man party’, Bennett said that she will represent the party in the two proposed debates. Despite earlier comments to the contrary, their only MP Caroline Lucas won’t get a look in.
The interview had a sense of deja vu compared to Nigel Farage’s turn on the Andrew Marr Show. Once upon a time, Farage, like Bennett, came off badly from a policy grilling and deflected detailed questions by saying ‘we’ll fully cost that in our manifesto’. But Farage went away, did his homework and is now able to better deal with such an onslaught. Bennett and the Greens now have to go away and do the same, if they want to be taken more seriously.