Lots of threats and hyperbole flying around over the prospect of Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP appearing on Question Time on Thursday. But why?
Love them or loathe them – and, for the record, I loathe them – the BNP is now a legitimate political party, with members serving as local councillors and MEPs and, while I deplore everything they stand for, I can understand the fear that drives otherwise quite ordinary people into their clutches – the fear that Britain no longer belongs to the British. The white British at least. Indeed, in Leicester, which recently gave birth to the English Defence League a short while ago, whites are now actually in a minority and the perception is – rightly or wrongly – that much of life in Leicester is tilted in favour of the Muslim population, an argument made vociferously by the EDL. They might have a point, but that’s an argument for another day.
The Union Against Fascism has called for a huge demonstration outside the Television Centre on Thursday, Fulham council has said they expect the BBC to foot the bill for any policing operation that might be needed, and Peter Hain has threatened the BBC with legal action.
Hain has simply lost the plot, the UAF, who are ramping up the anti-BNP emotions that just weren’t there initially, should really be charged with inciting public disorder (especially if it materialises), and the BBC have politely told Fulham council and Peter Hain to bugger off, and quite right too.
For those of you who haven’t seen Question Time, a bunch of politicians and third-rate celebs are assembled before an audience, members of whom fire “spontaneous” questions at them.
Into this forum, the BBC have invited Nick Griffin, in his role not as rabid racist, though that certainly influenced them, I’m sure, but as the leader of a small political party whose influence is, unfortunately, growing.
Question Time has featured guests from all parts of the political spectrum, and that they should invite Griffin at some point was probably inevitable. He’s there not to promote his toxic views – though that is certainly his right under the laws of this country which guarantee freedom of speech (well, mostly) – but to defend his position in the face of questions from the audience. To defend, in a public, nationally-televised, forum – if he can – the policies that have made him such a figure of hate and, perhaps to expose him for what he really is. And I really don’t have a problem with that.
If this guy was an Islamic supremacist*, let’s say, instead of a far-right, white supremacist, we wouldn’t be having the debate about whether he had the right to be there – of course he would. And by the same token, so does Griffin.
*Though it’s fair to say these guys tend not to believe in freedom of speech, or freedom of much else, unless it’s theirs.
When it comes to free speech, this applies not only to those of whom we approve, it extends to those of whom we disapprove, too. The UAF vehemently opposes Griffin’s right to free speech, ironically, behaving in a manner typical of those they claim to oppose – suppressing the right of others to express views with which they disagree. They seem not to understand that.
There is, though, one thing that bothers me. That is, earlier this year, the BBC was sued by Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, claiming he’d been slandered (even though he wasn’t mentioned by name). Why the BBC was sued, and not the perpetrator of the alleged slander I have not the faintest idea. The BBC settled out of court, paying Bari £45,000 – I think they should have defended themselves; not doing so leaves them seriously exposed. Read about it here
The BBC can be held responsible for what their employees say on air, but not for what guests, people over whom they have zero control, say – suing over Question Time is little different to suing over a news bulletin, and just as absurd. The BBC is just the messenger, not the message. And broadcasting a disclaimer before the show, pointing out that the views expressed are not those of the BBC should be surely adequate – and will certainly be needed on Thursday.
Personally, I can’t see anything useful coming out of Question Time. Griffin is a slippery bastard, and a master at manipulating his audience, and dodging the question – I very much doubt anyone will get a straight answer.
And it’s deeply unfortunate that the question of unlimited immigration (by which I don’t mean unrestricted, but with no sign of an end), is such a feature of BNP policy, because it really is a question that needs addressing, but anyone who raises it runs the risk of being tarred with the BNP racist brush – and before the green-ink brigade start accusing me of being a racist, read this https://ronsrants.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/the-public-perception-of-immigration-is-it-wrong/ .