End reliance on fossil fuels? Yes. Implement a higher minimum wage? Yes. Impose a cap on bankers bonuses? Yes. Scrap tuition fees? Yes. Build more affordable housing? Yes. How many affordable homes? Quiet. How will you build them? Stammer. How will you pay for them? Silence.
Pundits will focus on Natalie Bennett’s humiliating performance on LBC Radio for some time, licking their lips and typing away. Within 24 hours you could read empathetic views here, more critical here, and slandered here.
But Bennett’s live blunder is not the problem at hand. She is not the first politician to suffer from a terrible interview, and certainly not the first to suffer from brain freeze. It’s a bit embarrassing, but nowhere near as bad as when my driving examiner grabbed the wheel during my test this morning and called me incompetent. I doubt if I’d told her I’d had a brain freeze she would have been empathetic. Brain freezes on the road are pretty dangerous. A brain freeze in politics is…well, politics. You will miscalculate, flounder and fall, but the media will move on quickly enough.
Nor are the Greens alone in the recent list pre-election stumbles. Best was Labour’s Ed Balls and his business pal “Bill somebody.” UKIP is having to expel its candidates for racist remarks, and the Tories’ Malcolm Rifkind will stand down at the next election because apparently being an MP isn’t time consuming enough.
My concern is therefore not Ms. Bennett’s performance. My concern is the apology that followed. Writing in the The Guardian, Bennett wrote 514 words in which she apologized for the interview. It was pretty genuine, steering her away from the more typical ‘non-apology apology’ we get from politicians. Yet, a mere 47 words was catered towards explaining how The Green Party would actually pay for the half a million homes they want to build- the answer she was unable to provide during the LBC interview.
Just to be clear, that’s 9% dedicated to the actual question at hand. I suppose time spent discussing actual policies, and detailing how they will undertake in politics, probably does hover around that number, or less. But building 500, 000 homes is a difficult and complicated undertaking. It’s doable- but it’s radical, and it needs explaining.
Journalist Esther Addley seems to think that obsessing with numbers is a “red herring.” She quotes “party insiders” who insist that voting Green is voting for a “vision” and sending “a message.” This is precisely the opposite kind of Greens need. It’s fine if The Green Party wants to explain the philosophical basis upon which its policies and budget are based. In fact, I encourage them to do so. They dispute, for example, the use of GNP as a means of indicating economic well-being. This is a radical way of thinking. But if a Party is portrayed as an “expressive act” by media, political pundits and voters alike, you end up with useless politicians and no “Real Change,” which is the party’s slogan after all. This leads to Nick Clegg-style cringe-worthy retractions, best seen in tuition fees.
If there is any Party that needs to talk about numbers, it’s the Greens. If you want to change the neo- liberal model upon which our economy is based, voters will need clear outlines on how this will be achieved. If their media presence is limited to vague generalized John Lennon imagination-style slogans, they forgo their right to get elected. With so many Parties at hand and the prospect of coalition governments on the table, it is not about increasing your likeability through sincere and thoughtful apologies. Sustainability, equality and the re-distribution of wealth are great when written, but what about when it’s added up? The electorate needs to know exactly how more homes will be built, how we will replace fossil fuels, and how we can do away with austerity.
Those with the same vision as The Greens tend not to vote. This is partially because they don’t believe in the political and/or voting system, with a tad of Russell Brand arrogance thrown in there. The Green Party should be maximizing on our disenchanted electorate and grab the serious activists that have lost hope in Labour and the Liberal Democrats. They need to talk numbers, talk divestment, speak out against growth as an economic model, and not fall into the trap of being treated as the nice symbolic party for ones imagination. The Greens have a budget. Lets talk about it.