Bill Carmichael: A taste of the chaos of Green politics

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THE Green Party holds a conference in Liverpool today and for once interest is sky high – if only for the potential comedy value of the event.

Party leader Natalie Bennett’s first key appearance since her spectacular meltdown on a live radio interview late last month is eagerly anticipated.

The big question is whether she – and her party – will be able to rebuild their shattered credibility with voters with just two months to go to the election?

If you haven’t heard the interview – and hundreds of thousands have since listened on the internet – it is a classic car crash and has been dubbed “the worst political interview of all time”. Even Bennett was forced to admit it was “excruciating”.

Under polite but persistent questioning from LBC host Nick Ferrari over the costs of Green housing policy, Bennett first dries up, then splutters, then plucks various figures seemingly at random from the air and then completely comes apart at the seams with a series of coughing fits that fail to hide the fact she hasn’t the vaguest clue what she is talking about.

Politics can be a rough old game and it is impossible not to feel a twinge of compassion for a person who is so clearly out of her depth.

But sympathy should be limited. Some polls have put the Greens on a par with the Liberal Democrats and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Bennett could hold the balance of power come May 8.

With the party promising to spend public money with all the abandon of a drunken sailor home on shore leave, the Greens have the potential to do irreversible damage to our fragile economic recovery.

Bennett and the Greens should be subject to proper scrutiny – just like a grown up political party!

Since the interview, the Greens’ spin operation has been in damage limitation mode. Bennett is an ordinary human being who makes mistakes, just like us, we are told. What a refreshing change from the slick and polished image presented to the public by the other party leaders!

Perhaps this blatant spin will work, but I am not convinced. Voters look at least for competence in our political leaders – although we rarely get it. And if ordinary people performed as badly as Bennett in their jobs they would be out on their ear.

She had clearly failed to learn the detail of her party’s policy – particularly over what the costs would be. But in politics details – and money – matter.

And the issue of competence is corrosive to the Greens. In Brighton, where the Green Party runs the administration, the council has fallen apart in an embarrassing shambles. Green councillors rebelled this week against their own leaders over £18m worth of cuts to services and the council failed to set a budget. The Greens are at war with one another.

The truth is that the Green Party may be an effective pressure group, but it is a terrible political party. Greens are okay at waving placards and shouting criticism from the sidelines, but put them in power, where attention to detail and the ability to take tough decisions really matter, and they fall apart.

Chilling statistics

Plumbers and heating engineers should be trained to help people who are living in homes that are too cold, says new guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

More than 24,000 mainly elderly people die unnecessarily every year because they can’t afford to heat their homes properly, according to the Office of National Statistics.

And Nice says plumbers, meter installers and people installing insulation are ideally placed to spot vulnerable people.

This sounds like good neighbourliness to me, but I have a better idea. Why not abolish all the green taxes that make energy so expensive in the UK and which drive millions into fuel poverty?

Perhaps then elderly people would be able to heat their homes properly and we won’t need the plumber to keep an eye on them.