"This piece is simply an apology". Photo: YouTube screengrab
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Natalie Bennett, please stop making us all feel sorry for you


Yesterday, this mole jumped on the everybody-laugh-at-Natalie-Bennett's-awkward-interview bandwagon. But today, this mole's whiskers are wilting in sympathy at the 500-word penned apology by the Green leader in the GuardianThe headline: "Life is a learning process and I've much still to learn". 

It begins: "This piece is simply an apology..." (tear).

It’s never easy being a politician in the limelight, and it shouldn’t be. We are asked all sorts of questions, from our taste in breakfast cereal to our thoughts on macroeconomic policy, and we’re always expected to have a well-informed and thought-through opinion.

On Tuesday morning I gave a terrible interview on LBC – let’s not pretend it was anything else. If you cringed listening to the show, than I’m sure you can imagine what I felt like.

We launched one aspect of our housing policy in early February. I was on top of the figures then, but I hadn’t looked at them since.

When asked about the figures, my mind simply went blank.

It’s easy to say that it “happens to everyone” but, on the day of our election launch, I should have made damn sure it didn’t happen to me. Listening back (which I’ve forced myself to do) I’ve found myself shouting at the radio....

It ends: 

Yesterday morning reminded me that life is a learning process and that I have much still to learn. Unlike many other party leaders I haven’t been a politician for all that long. I’m willing to admit that this level of attention is a challenge, but it’s one that I can and will rise to. Never before in my lifetime have I seen such appetite for change in this country, and I have a duty to my party and to our 509 candidates in England and Wales to lead from the front.

I’m not going to pretend I’m not upset about my performance, I am. But I’m also more determined than ever that the Green party’s policies get a fair hearing at this election.

Awww, somebody give her a tree to hug.

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.