Home Comment Oh Natalie Bennet, how popular thou art!

Oh Natalie Bennet, how popular thou art!

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Over 700 students queued to hear Natalie Bennet speak in the Forum. The Green’s first event of the year proved to be immensely popular, with rounds of applause breaking out every 5 minutes. Matthew Wilcock, Online Comment Editor, recounts the speech’s best bits.

I only wanted a nice cuppa, to munch on a couple of biscuits, to steal many more and to listen to the leader of the Green Party’s speech. I was confronted not with coffee or biscuits, but a gargantuan snake of impatient students winding its way round the forum. My wishes were rudely shattered by an upsurge in our generation’s interest in politics. (And they call us ‘politically apathetic’!) Over 700 students wished to be crammed into the auditorium, many of whom would be crammed into the overflow seminar rooms where XTV were streaming the event, which will soon be available to watch on their site.

Not one seat spare... Photo credit: Maria Finnerty
Not one seat spare… Photo credit: Maria Finnerty

Even Joe Levy, the event’s chief organiser, was taken aback by the result. “I was truly overwhelmed by such an amazing turnout. Natalie inspired many people from the audience and the atmosphere was electric.” Exeter’s turnout for a student Green Party event has been the largest of all universities, with over 200 more audience members than York. Huzzah!

The speech, perhaps unsurprisingly to a member of the Green Party, took the template of a GCSE geography answer in which there were always three factors, which in order of decreasing importance were economic, social and environmental.

Economically, we’re screwed but lets squeeze the non-tax-paying “freeloaders” like Amazon who don’t pay their fair share. “You pay taxes for the roads they drive on but they do not. They are a parasite!” Cue: Resounding applause!

Socially, we’re screwed again but lets tackle higher housing prices, Natalie argued. “Lets tackle the privatisation of the NHS. The profit motive has no place in healthcare!” Cue: Saying “here! here!” if you had donned a green outfit and nod-filled admiration otherwise.

Yet in terms of environmental policy… not much was said. The Greens struck me as the further-left-than Labour party rather than the ‘environment-loving’ one. A touch of rhetorical dressing was used such as “we are all one world” and “lets do it for our planet” but little more.

Tree-hugger or not, Natalie Bennet’s remarks were met with continual adoration. Or so the Greens would have you think. Whenever a decent rhetorical sound bite was heard, the Young Greens would burst into uproarious applause in the front seats, which triggered a less hearty clapping from the centre and a “well, it would be rude not to join in” half-hearted effort at the back.

Perhaps my pessimism (hangover) gets the better of me… One cannot deny Natalie was met by unexpectedly large crowds, which during her speech would clap and pound their laps as if their place in the queue to the first Cheesy’s of term depended on it.

As I left the auditorium I managed to catch the eye of Maria Finnerty, President of Labour Students. As the Greens and Labour share many policies I was curious to see what she had to say. The palpable positivity in the auditorium had clearly incensed her usually cheery self all the more: “Natalie’s message about young people becoming politically involved is so important. We’re paying the price for apathy with tripled tuition fees and are side-lined in a way that older generations are not. Regardless of party preferences, I hope that more students will have been inspired to make their voices heard in 2015!”

"Yay! Politics!" one voice was heard in the crowd... And they call us 'politically apathetic'! Photo credit: Maria Finnerty
“Yay! Politics!” one voice was heard in the crowd… And they call us ‘politically apathetic’! Photo credit: Maria Finnerty

Nick Sutton, president of Lib Dem students at Exeter, also spoke admiringly of Natalie as a speaker but added “although she said attractive things, there was a distinctive lack of policy and substance. What students want are proper policy answers to the big questions and they didn’t get them tonight.” A interesting point: I wonder if Natalie had brought many to a centre-left viewpoint rather than elucidating what it meant to be a Green and how she would achieve it.

What Natalie really pushed for was that we, students, vote so that we are heard. She claimed it didn’t matter if you voted for her, or voted for anyone.  It is crucial that students are recorded as having gone into the ballot box, and if they’re completely lost for something to do in there, just write a rude word on the ballot paper.

If you think you can get your message across by defacing a ballot paper, register to vote here!

– Matthew G. Wilcock

Exepose would love to hear what you thought of Natalie’s talk. Leave your comments below or get in touch via Facebook  or exepose-comment@xmedia.ex.ac.uk

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