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19 January 2015

“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.

By Ashley Cowburn

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.

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

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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.