Former Green leader clashes with columnist over Greta Thunberg

12 November 2019, 11:14

Two guests, on the opposite end of the political spectrum, argued over whether Greta Thunberg is 'scaring' male politicians.

Nick Ferrari spoke to Baroness Natalie Bennett, former Green Party leader, and Brendan O'Neill, Spiked Online's editor, about Hillary Clinton's comments on Greta Thunberg.

Hillary Clinton said that male politicians are "scared" of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Nick Ferrari put it to Bennett that he couldn't understand why Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May and Angela Merkel aren't frightened of the activist - but Emmanuel Macron, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are.

Bennett replied: "I think there's an additional aspects. I would expect that some of those leaders, female leaders, are probably frightened of her as well.

"But there is also a fact that there's not very many, still not a very high percentage of women in politics. People don't, male politicians, have to deal with women very often.

"I can say from personal experience that they often find that very uncomfortable and they will often bluster or shout or be loud or try and shut you down.

If that happens, they know they're not supposed to do that to someone under 18, to a child. So they're really unable to know how to deal with it."

Natalie Bennett and Brendan O'Neill clash over Greta Thunberg
Natalie Bennett and Brendan O'Neill clash over Greta Thunberg. Picture: PA

O'Neill said: "I don't accept that at all. I think, not for the first time, Hillary Clinton is completely wrong.

"I think a lot of people who criticise Greta Thunberg, they're not scared of her, they're scared for her in many instances.

"They're worried that she has been exploited by cynical adults, like Hillary Clinton and others in the green movement in particular, who have used to face this incredibly fearful, panic stricken message on the world.

"That has had a bad impact on Greta Thunberg as we saw at her talk at the climate summit where she had a moral meltdown essentially.

"She was weeping in public and I think it also had a bad impact on political debate because, as Natalie rather just gave away there, the point of having Greta Thunberg at the front of this campaign is precisely because she's a child and because adults don't know how to respond to that.

So she is being used almost to silence rational debate because anyone who pushes back against what she's saying is immediately accused either of been scared of a child or of bullying a child. It is quite cynical."

Bennett said that O'Neill was failing to recognise that Thunberg has 'agency'.

She said: "There's a whole generation which is being politically active, politically engaged, politically involved, and they doing it for themselves, by themselves, stepping up and acting because their elders have not."

O'Neill argued that we're "just filling the next generation with fear" - and said some young people are suffering with 'eco-anxiety' because of it.

He said: "I think that actually speaks to the real failure of adult responsibility, which is to speak to children calmly about problems to do with the environment, and instead what we're doing in schools, in popular culture, in politics, we are pumping children with fear."

He urged everyone to "calm down" and stop panicking.

Bennett argued that the "responsible adults" have warned us that we have 11 years to turn this world around.