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.