Natalie Bennett has just been taking questions as part of the Sky leaders’ debates for younger voters, and delivered the second Green U-turn of the day, this time on terrorism. After struggling on the Sunday Politics to explain why her party thinks that membership of a terrorist group alone should not be a crime, the Green leader decided to say that actually, her party thought that it was:
‘Obviously [Islamic State] and al-Qaeda are hideous terrorist organisations that advocate and support violence. If you are involved in them, support them in any way, then you are participating in inciting violence, that’s a crime, rightly, and should be pursued to the full extent of the law.’
This follows Caroline Lucas saying that the citizens’ income was a ‘longer-term aspiration’ rather than something that would appear in the 2015 general election manifesto. Lucas also told the Today programme she was ‘very comfortable’ with Bennett appearing in the leaders’ debates, though the pair seem to have only come to an agreement after Lucas had a tough time explaining why she might do some of them herself when she appeared on This Week.
Should Lucas be ‘very comfortable’ with Bennett appearing? The Brighton Pavilion MP is no longer her party leader, but she does still come across better on the airwaves than her colleague. Today Bennett put in a solid performance, and was very clear on where her party stands – partly perhaps because the audience of young voters wanting to ask questions gave her the space to say what she wanted to. But she was nowhere near as enthusiastic and excited about the policies she was advocating as Lucas is. Given the Greens may benefit more from not being on television where their ideas will come under scrutiny, when they do appear on screen, they need someone who can enthuse voters who do happen to be wondering about the detail of the party’s policies.
Bennett did warm up when asked what inspired her. She told a lovely story about being told as a five-year-old that she couldn’t have a bicycle because she was a girl, and ended her anecdote by pointing out that she now cycles around London. Every politician needs a good story about why they’ve ended up leading a party other than ‘I think I’d be good at it’, but they also need to communicate somehow a sense that their policies excite them, too. Given the Greens are a party that partly takes support away from main parties who seem arid and uninspired, an inability to do this could be a serious flaw.