It was probably the most controversial event of the week – postal strikes and Afghanistan aside– and caused mass outrage, but in the end the appearance of BNP leader Nick Griffin on question time went ahead as planned.
Having Griffin on the show was always going to be contentious, as many see the BNP as a fascist and racist organisation. Unfortunately (and no matter how well meaning the protest may appear to people who want an end to racial intolerance) whether you like it or not, the BNP have been democratically elected to the European Parliament by the North West and York and Humberside electorate, so it was right that the BBC invited Griffin on the show, as to not would have contravened the idea of democratic free speech. After all if we marginalise undesirable politicians who were voted in legitimately, we therefore deny a voice to the people who decided to vote for them. Sure some people may argue (as the protesters outside the BBC effectively did) that that’s allowable given the unsavoury views of the party, but then that’s not free speech. You can’t just silence people you don’t like. Where would it end? It would be a slippery slope towards denying more and more people a voice, and who’s to decide what constitutes denying several thousand voters a voice, thankfully not the government. It’s ironic as doing just that would bring us a step closer to fascism and a dictatorial style government, than just letting Griffin come on the show.
Personally I don’t see the BNP as much of a threat. Most people can tell they’re bigoted. Sure they’ve been given a bit of a makeover since the days when they boasted skinheads and outspoken anti-Semites but the blind xenophobia bubbling under the surface is still more than apparent. Also the level of protest that was seen outside the BBC yesterday was unnecessary, as I don’t think people need to take to the streets to stop the BNP from rising to power. They do a perfectly good job on their own of showing themselves up for the narrow minded oafs that they are.
Watching him on Question Time was a pretty painful experience, as the likes of David Dimbleby, Jack Straw and Chris Huhne, had come prepared with embarrassing on-the-record comments that Griffin had made, and they took delight in subjecting him to a sound whipping. Griffin really had little he could say to any of this, and when he tried to deny them he just looked silly (a bit like his holocaust denial which also took up a chunk of the show). What was just as bad was when he launched into an angry tirade about the ‘evils’ of Islam. About how Muslims mistreat women (in some cases a valid criticism, but I would hold that down more to local cultural customs rather than Qur’an doctrine), and that Muslims are instructed to murder, and look down upon people of other religions. If only someone had pointed out to him that the Qur’an states that murder is the ultimate evil, and that Christianity (which he talked up so much) is just as guilty of religious intolerance to the same degree, if not worse, (considering the crusades, and the treatment of colonial Africa) as Islam.
I could write for pages about why Nick Griffin’s arguments are wrong, and that I don’t like the boss eyed bigot, especially for trying to concoct an image of Britain being destroyed, which never properly existed - it’s just a doe-eyed flight of fancy with the Union Flag plastered everywhere - but to be honest it’s not worth it. Everyone seems to see him for what he is and quite honestly he got the distain he deserved yesterday from the public and the panel.
Moving on to the programme itself, I thought it was, all in all, a bit predictable. I don’t think anyone didn’t expect Griffin to show himself up, and of course we had numerous outraged members of the public asking him how he could hold such hateful views. You could see it coming a mile off. What was also expected, and eventually came to fruition, is that the other members of the panel, especially in the case of Straw and Huhne were determined to give the new guy a damn good kicking. It diverted attention away from any controversial issues they were going to get pressed on. Dimbleby too took a good chance to get the boot in, and it was plainfully obvious that he did not like Griffin one bit. Unfortunately I think the show suffered for all this distain. There wasn’t much real debate about any recent issues. The BNP aspect of the show took up all the time, so you have to feel sorry for the people who turned up with questions about actual government policy. In fact I wouldn’t even call the BNP discussion a debate. It was more a competition of who can vent the most moral outrage. He might as well of been in the stocks having burning crosses and swastikas thrown at him, as only that would have made him look more uncomfortable. All in all, it was just a chance for Griffin to get publically held to account for his racist views, which is not a bad thing - he had it coming really – but maybe they should have had a debate instead of pillorying the ‘only’ racist village as they did yesterday. Talk about Little Britain.