Caroline Lucas and Natalie Bennett on the campaign poster. Photo: Green Party
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"What are you afraid of, boys?" The Green Party leader attacks Westminster's "three amigos"

As membership of the party grows to 44,175 in England and Wales, the party leader, Natalie Bennett, attacks the old boys' club of Westminster.

The flourishing Green party has launched a fresh challenge to the party leaders over the televised election debates with a new campaign poster, asking, “What are you afraid of, boys?”

Speaking this morning outside Westminster the Green party leader, Natalie Bennett, said that including the Greens in the election debates would be important in moving away from the image of Westminster as an old boys’ club. The poster, featuring Bennett and and Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas standing side by side, urges the broadcasters to invite the Greens to the TV debates.

The event, in which the election poster was unveiled on College Green, featured LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell, a mascot in a tree costume and another mascot in the form of a chicken from political bloggers Guido Fawkes, holding a placard, reading: "Don't be a chicken, Ed!" Last week at prime minister's questions, Miliband was branded a "chicken" by Cameron for failing to agree to a multi-party televised debate incorporating the Greens.

Bennett also announced that membership of the Greens in England and Wales now stands at 44,175. Or 52,000 including Scotland and Northern Ireland. Last week, the Green party overtook Ukip’s number of party members after a 2,000-strong overnight surge. Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, has previously said that the Green party did not have sufficient support to qualify for a “major party status” in the general election, but Ukip may have.

In a synchronised 6am strike last week, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage sent separate but identical letters to David Cameron suggesting it would be “unacceptable if the political self-interest of one party leader” stopped the live debates from taking place. It was also added that the broadcasters provide an “empty podium” for Cameron should he change is stance.

But today Bennett said that the three amigos (her words) idea of an empty chair for Cameron would not be a helpful intervention. 

Here’s what Bennett said this morning, outside Westminster: 

First of all at the start of the week we saw what I’ve dubbed the three amigos – Milband, Clegg and Farage – writing to the broadcasters suggesting that they should "empty-chair" David Cameron. I don’t think that’s a very helpful intervention.

And I am pleased to say that yesterday on the Marr programme Mr Clegg moved on from that and he’s now said that the broadcasters need to think again about the format.

It’s worth pointing out that the broadcasters always put out their plans for consultation and so now we’re looking at a situation where they’ve had a lot of response from the public. Of course we’ve had a petition with 275,000 people saying invite the Greens.

“It’s very clear that we should be there if it’s going to be a balanced debate. What I am doing this morning is launching this poster behind me and it’s making a very important point – we do have behind us what is an old boys’ club in more than one way, and it’s time we moved on from that. The debates are an important part of that moving on. This is [today] a little bit of fun, while making a point.

This is the Green surge. We don’t know where it’s going but it’s certain that politics in Britain is not going to be the same again. And that’s a very good thing.

Ashley Cowburn writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2014. He tweets @ashcowburn

 

 

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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