Natalie Bennett has been forced to issue a grovelling apology to her party after a series of "excruciating" media interviews overshadowed her party's key election campaign launch.
In a series of major embarrassments, the Green Party leader was quizzed by LBC on Wednesday morning, but appeared not to know how much her plan to build 500,000 new social rental homes would cost.
The Green leader struggled to explain to interviewer Nick Ferrari how the Greens would pay for their housing policy. Ferrari appeared bemused by Bennett's estimates of how little each new home would cost. "What are they made of? Plywood?" he asked. His questions were met with frequent silences from Bennett, as well as coughing.
Ferrari was forced to ask at one point: "Are you alright?"
She also told BBC Radio 4 Today that the UK should seek to appease Russia and let Vladimir Putin "walk away with something" in order to end the stand-off in Ukraine.
The interviews also risked obscuring a ComRes poll in today's Daily Mail which gave the party its highest ever rating. The party's share of the vote has risen to 8 per cent – it's highest showing with ComRes since 2010. The poll puts them level with the Liberal Democrats.
Bennett has now had to pull out of hosting a prearranged phone-in on LBC interview on Wednesday evening, blaming her illness.
Later at a press conference, Bennett suffered the highly embarrassing scene of Green peer Jenny Jones stepping in to stop her answering a question about her disastrous interviews, even though she insisted that she wanted to speak.
Bennett finally admitted that it was “absolutely excruciating in the studio”. “Occasionally one has a mind blank,” she added.
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Appearing on the BBC Daily Politics, she issued an apology to party members, admitting she had not done "any kind of job" of presenting the policies.
"I had a very bad interview on housing this morning, I’m very happy to confess that and I’m very sorry to the Green Party members who I didn’t do a good job, any kind of job of presenting our policies on," she said.
Green MEP Molly Scott Cato raised eyebrows when she tried to blame her leader's performance on Labour's negative campaigning. However, one party member disagreed, fuming: "I pounded my desk with a rage this morning listening to Bennett's schoolgirl performance".
Even more supportive activists worried that the party was "giving our opponents plenty of ammunition ATM and doing their job for them".
The Green Party leader's performance was met with horror by political reporters who could barely bring themselves to listen to the end.
Oh the humanity! http://t.co/6Cp4QLBqq3— Robert Hutton (@RobDotHutton) February 24, 2015
Natalie Bennett’s LBC interview is so bad I felt enormously sorry for her. Oh god. It’s just painful. http://t.co/IKuZkpVfSd— Mark Ferguson (@Markfergusonuk) February 24, 2015
In an eerie omen of today's catastrophic series of interviews, Bennett had told the website LondonlovesBusiness.com what a "bad day" would be like on her campaign.
“I suppose a bad day is when you feel like you’re not managing to get across clearly the policies and the ambition of the Green Party,” she said.
“There can be all kinds of reasons … Maybe you might blame yourself or maybe you might blame the circumstances, What I aim to get across is Green Party policies."
Pressed on whether she was any good at interviews, Bennett insisted that it was “for other people to judge”.