Natalie Bennett needs to cheer up blasts Judy

Monday 2 March 2015

I'd like to wrap a comforting arm around Natalie Bennett’s shoulders.

The leader of the Green Party has had a horrendous week, rendered almost dumb by the silky questioning of Nick Ferrari, the LBC host who got the scoop of his life when Natalie couldn’t remember how her party’s main policies would be paid for.

Ferrari is a forensic interviewer but he was fair to Bennett, who simply disintegrated under his questioning.

He only asked her how the Greens would pay for the 500,000 new social rent homes they intend to build if they (hah!) win the election. “Erm…” floundered Natalie, “well, that will be spelled out in our manifesto.”

“So you don’t know?” Nick asked helpfully. To which our Nat replied: “No… well… er…” Oh dear.

It all got much worse and the wretched Bennett coughed and spluttered as she explained she had a bad cold.

To which Nick replied with the genuine sympathy all broadcasters are so skilled in demonstrating: “I’m terribly sorry to hear that.”

Oh yeah. OK, it was a horrible interview, a car crash as Jeremy Vine described it next day on his Radio 2 show.

And it was excruciatingly funny. But what I want to say to Natalie Bennett is this: for all your shame and humiliation you came across only as someone in the middle of a perfectly understandable crisis of confidence.

You didn’t sound stupid, just under-prepared. And scared. And we’ve all been there one way or another.

Especially those of us who, in the words of a much-loved producer from my early days in TV, have to: “Point their Percy at the public.”

Natalie was pointing her Percy at us at the start of an election campaign. Unlike other party leaders such as Cameron and Miliband she doesn’t have a vast army of researchers, advisers and secretaries at her disposal.

She just has herself. And yes, she cocked it up. But in the main I think people feel sympathy rather than scorn.

There is something to be said for an underdog, especially if she has the courage to get back on the horse and face another interviewer soon after.

I don’t buy the opinion that she was “hounded” because she’s a woman, by the way.

I think Nick Ferrari and all the other hugely experienced political broadcasters in our cynical old media would have been just as brutally unforgiving of a male candidate who muffed his lines. But cheer up, Nat.

Everyone knows most politicians are pompous. And vulnerability can be an asset in these arrogant circles of power into which you have so disastrously dipped a toe.

Humiliation can be overcome with humour. And this comes from a woman whose evening gown fell down to expose her bra at a glittering TV awards ceremony in front of 11 million viewers.

If you can survive that you can survive anything.

Read Richard and Judy's Daily Express column in full here.
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