Bennett on Miliband: "There's not any sense of conviction of what kind of society he wants." Photo: May2015.
Show Hide image

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, 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.”


May2015 is the New Statesman's new elections site. Explore it for data, interviews and ideas on the general election.

Show Hide image

Does the UK care enough about climate change to admit it is part of the problem?

The government’s energy policies make can make it hard to decipher its commitment to emissions reduction.

“People tell me it’s ridiculous to be flying for a climate change project but you have to get real with it, I mean I can’t cycle across the Southern ocean,” says Daniel Price, an environmental scientist from London. As founder of Pole-to-Paris, Price is about to complete a 17,000km bike ride from the Antarctic to the Arc de Triomphe.

Price came up with the idea in an effort to raise public awareness of COP21, the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Paris next week. During the trip he’s faced a succession of set-backs: from the discovery that boats were prohibitively expensive, to diplomatic tensions scuppering his Russian visa plans. Yet the darkest moments were when he became overwhelmed by the magnitude of his own mission. “There were difficult times when I just thought, ‘What is the point of this’?” he says. “Cycling round the world is nowhere near enough to engage people.” 

As world leaders descend on Paris, many questions remain unanswered. Not least how much support developing nations will receive in tackling the effects of climate change. New research commissioned by Oxfam claims that such costs could rise to £1.7tn a year by 2050. But with cuts kicking in at home, the need to deliver “climate justice” abroad feels like a bigger ask than ever.

So does Britain really care enough about climate change to accept its full part in this burden? The government’s energy policies make can make it hard to decipher its commitment to emissions reduction. In September, however, it did pledge £5.8bn from the foreign aid fund to helping poorer nations combat climate change (twice that promised by China and the United States). And there’s evidence to suggest that we, as a public, may also care more than we think.

In America attitudes are much darker; in the dismissive words of Donald Trump “It’s called the weather”. Not least since, as a recent study proves, over the last twenty years corporations have systematically spread scepticism about the science. “The contrarian efforts have been so effective," says the author Justin Farrell, a Yale sociologist, "that they have made it difficult for ordinary Americans to even know who to trust.” 

And what about in China, the earth's biggest polluter? Single-party rule and the resulting lack of public discussion would seem to be favouring action on the environment. The government has recently promised to reach "peak" emissions by 2030, to quadruple solar installations, and to commit $3.1bn to help low-income countries adapt to the changing world. Christiana Figueres, the UN’s chief climate official, has even lauded the country for taking “undisputed leadership” on climate change mitigation.

Yet this surge of policy could mask the most troubling reality of all: that, when it comes to climate change, the Chinese are the least concerned citizenship in the world. Only 18 per cent of Chinese see the issue as a very serious problem, down 23 percentage points from five years ago, and 36 points behind the global median.

A new study by political economist Dr Alex Lo has concluded that the country’s reduced political debate could be to blame for the lack of concern. “In China popular environmentalism is biased towards immediate environmental threats”, such as desertification and pollution, Lo writes, “giving little impetus to a morally driven climate change movement”.

For the international community, all is well and good as long as the Chinese government continues along its current trajectory. But without an engaged public to hold it to account there’s always a chance its promises may fade into thin air.

So perhaps the UK’s tendency to moan about how hard it is to care about the (seemingly) remote impacts of climate change isn’t all bad. At least we know it is something worth moaning about. And perhaps we care more than we let on to each other.

Statistics published this summer by the Department of Energy and Climate Change reveal that three quarters of the British public support subsidies for renewable energy, despite only 10 per cent thinking that the figure is that high. “Even if the public think the consensus is not there, there are encouraging signs that it is,” says Liz Callegari, Head of Campaigns at WWF. “Concern for climate change is growing.”

As Price puts it, “You can think of climate change as this kind of marathon effort that we have to address and in Paris we just have to get people walking across the start line together”. Maybe then we will all be ready to run.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.