I had mixed feelings about the BBC inviting Nick Griffin on to Question Time. I don’t think that they should be banned or completely censored – those are generally counter-productive as well as being an infringement on the rights of free expression and association. But that doesn’t mean that they have to be invited on to national television. Even if they are, I’m not convinced that Question Time is all that good a forum to do it.
In fact, I don’t really think QT is all that good as a way of having political debate anyway. It can often end up as a pantomime, and the choice of guests can be a bit odd (not as bad as Radio Four’s Any Questions, which seems to have a rule that there must be three people from one side and only one on the other in every single programme).
I was going to give it a miss, but it was compelling to see how Griffin did, and how it was handled. I’m still not sure it went as well as some think it did. Yes, the BNP leader did make some pretty big gaffes – such as referring to the KKK as ‘almost totally non-violent’, claiming ridiculously that he can’t explain how or why he’s changed his mind about the holocaust to to ‘European Law’ when no such law would stop him from speaking in this country – but at times the tenor of the show was about hectoring him, which has the danger of making him appear to be a ‘victim’.
He’s not a victim, of course, of anything other than his own beliefs, tactics and history. The problem is that he can play up to the view of himself and his party as poor innocents being scorned by fictitious ‘elites’, and hope that it will be empathised with by people who are scared of brown people.
On the positive side, he really did look uncomfortable when challenged, and particularly when confronted by his own words. To most people, he will have looked very nervous, which is often an indication of a politician who is lying – or is at least untrustworthy. But most people already know what he stands for, and it’s not them who the BNP are trying to get support from.
And while I can understand the anger that people have about having him on BBC TV, but the demonstrations were themselves overzealous. I’ve been supportive of the UAF in terms of campaigning and highlighting the truth about the BNP. I don’t, however, think that aggressive behaviour is the right way to deal with the problem.