Bennett on Miliband: "There's not any sense of conviction of what kind of society he wants." Photo: May2015.
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Natalie Bennett: Ukip voters are "simply lashing out" like "a small child" (Video)

Ukip voters are lashing out, Miliband has no conviction, Cameron has only done one thing well… May2015 talks to the Green Party leader.

This interview originally appeared on May2015.com, our new elections website.

After winning just 1 per cent of the vote in 2010, the Green Party are now polling at around 5 per cent. In the past four years they have won over 10-15 per cent of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010, and around 5 per cent of the 2010 Labour vote.

But who are the Greens and what do they stand for?

With just under six months to go until election day, we spoke to Natalie Bennett, leader of the party. Here are the 9 things we learnt:

1. Britain is in crisis

The Greens are thriving because of four “matching” and “interlinked” crises: “an economic crisis, a social, environmental crisis, and a political crisis”.

“We're really the only non-business as usual party.”

2. Ukip voters are “lashing out” like a “small child”

Are Ukip not also an anti-establishment party? Bennett suggested that those voting for them are:

“…simply lashing out, in the same way a small child, who’s a bit overtired and fed up, lashes out.”

"…with unemployment, with the fact that benefits are inadequate… it's understandable, it's an expression of anger."

3. There should not be a cap on immigration

“Should there be a cap on immigration?” We asked. “No”, Bennett replied.

“Actually, it’s probably worth expanding on that a little…”, she continued, “the government is attempting to put a cap on net migration” which is an “intellectual nonsense and a moral wrong”.

“I have huge sympathy with the fact that we’ve got a low wage economy, but that’s not caused by immigration. No immigrant arrives at the white cliffs of Dover and goes ‘I want to work for really lousy wages and be utterly exploited’. What we need is a decent minimum wage that’s properly enforced.”

4. Ed Miliband lacks conviction

To what extent is Ed Miliband offering anything like what he should be offering?

"Er, well, I think, you know, it's… Ed Miliband… Yes… [chuckles]… I think, that you know, it's very disappointing that he's not showing real leadership." Bennett began, haltingly, before concluding more strongly:

"There's not any sense of conviction of what kind of society he wants."

5. David Cameron has done one thing well

“Gay marriage … I think he showed some real leadership and some courage in taking on parts of his own party.”

Is there anything else to commend? Bennett quickly moved onto the “many worst things” he’s done. “The fact that he appointed Owen Paterson as environment secretary is deeply disturbing.”

6. Should the SNP be in the leaders debate?

Yes, said Bennett: “I wouldn’t be opposed to them being in.”

7. The Greens will not join a coalition

“You sacrifice your ministerial cars, but you get to keep your principles, and I think that’s what the Lib Dems did wrong.”

“Should we find ourselves after the next election or any point in the future [able to form a coalition]… our first idea isn’t a coalition, it’s a confidence and supply agreement.”

8. What do the Greens think about…

They are anti-academies, think the NHS is being privatised, and want to decriminalise prostitution, but will only commit to setting up a “Royal Commission” on legalizing drugs.

The war on drugs has, though, “definitively, clearly failed”.

9. Is Britain the best country in the world?

“I can answer this by my actions rather than words. I chose to be British, it wasn’t an accident at birth.”

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Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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