How Green Party debacle proved that political leaders need media training
Natalie Bennett’s errant grilling with Nick Ferrari will hardly inspire a vote of confidence – let alone crosses at the ballot box
The Green Party has been keen to pep up its media coverage, and has even strived to bag a slot in the upcoming TV debates – but after this week’s headline-grabbing radio interview, many people will be wondering if they are even up to the job.
On Tuesday, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was interviewed on Nick Ferrari’s LBC radio show. This was part of their policy launch, and was presumably intended to show they aren’t just a one-policy party; that they are a serious option for undecided voters.
A few questions into an already awkward interview on housing policy, Ferrari asked: “How much would that bring? The cost of 500,000 homes, let’s start with that. How much would that be?”
Bennett answered: “Right, well – that’s err… you’ve got a total cost… err… that we’re… that will be spelt out in our manifesto.”
Ferrari replied: “so, you don’t know?”
Her next answer on the cost of the homes was no more enlightening: “right, well – what, what, what we’re looking at in terms, in terms of the figures here, umm, what we need to do is actually… err, we’re looking at a total spend of 2.7… billion.”
Ferrari continued to calmly push her on what kind of costs were involved. Bennett tried – and failed – to give a clear answer, and her voice wavered and faltered before she loudly coughed, saying: “sorry, yes, as you can probably hear I’ve got a huge cold”.
At a news conference the following day, Bennett was asked if she had let the party down with her interview. She answered: “it was absolutely excruciating in the studio. All I can say is, occasionally one just has a mind blank”. Then, on a later interview with the BBC’s Daily Politics, she said, “I am sorry to the Green Party members [that] I didn't do a good job – any kind of job – presenting our policies.”
Days later, it’s still in the news. People have dissected the interview performance, others have examined the reactions on social media – and various news organisations have even used it as a good excuse to list other political interviews that have gone badly wrong. What very few people were discussing were the actual Green Party policies… which was, of course, the object of doing the interview from the start.
The inability to answer these key questions – presumably thanks to a lack of interview preparation – has meant that the party has occupied the headlines, but certainly not for the reasons it wanted. The danger now is that people would be inclined to associate the Greens with this amateur performance – a link that is hardly likely to win them further support. Or votes.
Will Edwards is managing director at media training consultancy Bluewood Training.
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