UK Politics

Election 2015: Green leader 'put climate change on agenda'

Natalie Bennett Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ms Bennett said she had had an "excellent campaign"

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has insisted she has put climate change "on the agenda" in the election campaign.

She told the BBC she was the only one to mention it during the leaders' debates, amid criticism she had talked more about the NHS and the economy.

Fuel duty would need to go up, she said, but only once public transport improvements were made to give drivers an affordable alternative.

Ms Bennett also predicted a record result for her party on 7 May.

Ms Bennett was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, following some criticism that the Green Party's central issues had gone largely unspoken during campaigning.

'Austerity-lite'

Professor Peter Wadhams told the Independent said the Greens were "grievously at fault in not talking about climate change" and that Ms Bennett herself had come across as "just another machine politician" during the TV debates.


Policy guide: Where the parties stand


The Green Party leader said she was setting out a "model of a different kind of society that's also living within the environmental limits of our one planet" - at a time when the main parties were offering "austerity-heavy" and "austerity-lite".

"We have put the environment and particularly climate change on the agenda in a way, sadly, every other party leader failed to do. In the two leader debates, I was the only person who talked about climate change - the other leaders collectively couldn't spare two words in three and a half hours to talk about climate change."

Ms Bennett was asked why the Greens' 16-page "mini manifesto" had not mentioned cars - although a pledge to bring back the fuel duty escalator to raise an additional £2.2bn a year - was included in their full manifesto.

She said they had been talking about fuel poverty and the problem of poorly-insulated homes and had been focusing on the need to bring the railways back into public hands.

Asked about putting up fuel duty, she said: "Yes, we need to do that - but what we need to do is offer people an affordable, reliable convenient alternative - and that's public transport.

"What we need to do is offer people an affordable, reliable and convenient alternative.

"You can't say to people 'get out of your cars' if you are not providing them with a reliable, affordable and convenient alternative."

Duty on unleaded petrol and diesel has been frozen at 57.95 pence per litre since 2011. That year, the government introduced a "fair fuel stabiliser" and scrapped the fuel price escalator, but said that if the price of oil fell below $75 a barrel for a sustained period, the escalator would be reintroduced.

Ms Bennett has faced some criticism of her performance on the campaign trail - following a radio interview in which she struggled to explain her party's policies. But she told the BBC she had had an "excellent campaign" and was looking forward to building on a "green surge" after the election.

The Greens have been polling in similar numbers to the Lib Dems and say their membership quadrupled in the past year.

The Green Party in England and Wales is fielding its largest ever slate of candidates, aiming to stand in 90% of parliamentary seats on 7 May. The Green parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland are separate organisations.

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