Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism

Nick Griffin on Question Time

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Nick Griffin, odious leader of the BNP, was a guest on BBC’s Question Time tonight. It’s a panel-based political discussion programme, but tonight it could not avoid becoming the Nick Griffin show. Not that the ugly racist had it all his own way, he was asked a few searching questions.

I believe the BBC were right to invite Griffin on the programme. I supported the principle of not giving the BNP a platform up until they won two seats in the European Parliament. We cannot deny that the party has a limited mandate. I feel great sympathy for the Unite Against Fascism supporters and others who protested outside Television Centre. I think we need both the protest and the debate; we should not make it easy for them.

The other panellists were Sayeeda Warsi (Muslim Tory peer), Jack Straw (Justice Secretary), Chris Huhne (LibDem Home Affairs Spokesperson) and Bonnie Greer (Black US-born playwright and critic). Of these, Warsi was by far the most capable opponent; Jack Straw was hampered by the fact that Griffin could easily point out the failings of this government, Chris Huhne struggled not to be too wet, and Bonnie Greer gave us some good laughs but was too lightweight on the politics. It would have been good to get some tougher opposition on the panel. I would have liked to have seen someone who had a more clear track record of highlighting BNP. One or two White working-class panellists would have been good at arguing against the BNP, seeing as it is cornering the vote among that section of our society. One of the few clear voices against the BNP recently has been Alan Johnson (Home Secretary) on last week’s Question Time, who described them as “an illegally constituted political party”. I’m sure Johnson didn’t want to share a platform with this racist, but he would have been a far better opponent than Straw.

Also on last week’s episode was the odious Ukip leader Nigel Farage. He was deft at deflecting any criticism directed at his party as little individual incidents rather than party policy. Nick Griffin wasn’t quite so skilled, but he did his usual trick of trying to put a veneer of respectability on the BNP, deflecting criticism around their racism and fascism. Unlike Farage, he didn’t get away with it. Oddly enough, continuing from the poisoned pen of Jan Moir, Griffin’s homophobic answers to questions were the clearest view of the hatred at the heart of the BNP. At that point, he was roundly jeered by the crowd.

One episode of Question Time is not such a big deal in British politics, though the ripples might resonate for a time. It wasn’t the ‘Christmas present’ for the BNP that some said it would be, but I hope this doesn’t make it easier for the BNP to appear on mainstream public platforms in the future. Yes to the debate, because we saw through the lies, but let’s not make it easy for them.

Author: Gareth Hughes

A priest of the Church of England, who is Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, and doing Syriac research at Oxford University.

2 thoughts on “Nick Griffin on Question Time

  1. I enjoyed watching Question Time last night, followed by ironically, BNP Wives on Sky. Being at SOAS the last few weeks I got the sense that (mostly left-wing and freedom-fighting) students there were pretty much against the idea of getting him on the programme, and that he shouldn’t be allowed the luxury of free expression that he himself is against. Also, there is a sense that being allowed this prestigious platform to express his political views (at this, I ask: what’s so special about Question Time but just another live show on the BBC watched by millions?) is opening the floodgates of race-based tension and violence on the streets.

    To the first idea, I think that freedom-fighting should not go so low as to censor someone whom thousands of Britons have voted for. There is no such thing as righteous banning, only the refusal to dialogue and expose him for what a racist slimeball he really is on TV, which hopefully will persuade many (who voted for his party) who don’t know him and his agenda any better.

    An article on the BBC news website has an interesting look at people’s response to last night’s programme, and revealed a few of his supporters who don’t know their party leader’s last name and the scale of his hatred.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8322626.stm

    • Thanks, cycads.

      It’s interesting that the BBC went to Dagenham Heathway tube station to interview passers-by about Griffin. This is an area that rolls out the vote for BNP, and we need to hear what white working-class people from such areas made of the programme. I find it shocking to hear the man expressing sympathy for Griffin even though he wouldn’t vote BNP. Where I and others saw Griffin as shown up on the programme, his most receptive constituency felt for him. This is worrying indeed. I think it was nearby Barking where a Sikh man was stabbed to death on the night BNP won its first seat on the borough council.

      As for Question Time‘s importance, it is only one late-night politics programme. However, the viewing figure for this episode was 7.9 million. That’s more than 10% of the UK population, blowing apart the previous record viewing figure of 4 million for a previous episode. I think that makes this episode important; it’s part of a vital national debate about the big issues of the moment.

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