"That will spelt out in our manifesto". Photo: Getty
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Natalie Bennett's incredibly awkward interview with LBC

“Right, what – what we’re looking at, in terms of the figures here um – what we need to do is actually [silence] er… we’re looking at a total spend of 2. 7 [pause] billion…”

Today is the big day of the Green party campaign launch. So, naturally, the Green leader Natalie Bennett took part in a series of live radio discussions this morning about her party’s manifesto. What could have possibly gone wrong?

listen to ‘Incredibly Awkward Interview With Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett’ on audioBoom

Here’s a snippet of the interview, transcribed before this mole could listen no longer:

(Nick Ferrari – NF/ Natalie Bennett – NB)

NF - The third key theme is that the Greens will ensure everyone has a secure, affordable place to live – how would that be brought about?

NB- Well – a couple of things we want to focus on here. In terms of council housing we want to build 500,000 new social rent homes…

NF - Good Lord. Where will you get the money from for that?

NB- Well what we want to do is fund that particularly by removing the tax relief on mortgage interest for private landlords. We have a situation where private landlords at the moment… basically running away with the situation of hugely rising rents, collecting large amounts of housing benefits

NF- But how much would that be worth – the mortgage relief for private landlords?

NB - Erm, well, it’s, that’s part of the whole costing of all of this…

NF - The cost of 500,000 homes – let’s start with that – how much is that going to be?

NB - Right, well that’s erm... you’ve got a total cost um that will be spelt out in our manifesto…

NF- So you don’t know?

NB - [Inaudible response]

NF - No you don’t, right.

NF - So we don’t know how much those homes are going to cost but the way it’s going to be funded is mortgage relief from private landlords – how much is that worth?

NB - Right, what – what we’re looking at, in terms of the figures here um – what we need to do is actually [silence] er… we’re looking at a total spend of 2. 7 [pause] billion…

NF - 500,000 – 2.7 billion – what are they made of, plywood?

NB - Um, basically, what we’re talking about is 500,000 new homes and each £1 spent on these brings back £2.40

No – but what is the total cost of 500,000 new homes?

[Painful silence]

Painful indeed.

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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