Friday, 23 October 2009

The world keeps turning

Nick Griffin appeared on Question Time then. I watched it, and so, I'll guess, did about 5 or so million other people. Yousuf didn't - and now wants to know what the outcome was. You can let him know here.

I'm not going to review it, except to say that I thought the politicians did well when they presented a united front against Nick Griffin - and floundered when they were attacking each other. Yet they attacked with respect and dignity - always "Mr Griffin said" this and "Mr Griffin did" that. And Bonnie Greer's tactics were spectacularly good - being a non-white face on the panel, she was seated next to the BNP leader and gently chided him throughout as "Nick". The audience, I guess, were a bit of a braying mob - though some of what Griffin said did get some sporadic applause (when he wasn't his true racist self). Iain Dale has a fine review here.

Anyway, the point I made before is the point I will make again. Those who were opposed to a Nick Griffin appearing on the show are entitled to their views but their attempts to fight fascism with fascist actions - stopping freedom of speech, ignoring the legitimacy of a democratic election - fall somewhat short of the standards they have set for themselves.

Peter Hain spectacularly misses the point when he says that the BBC have done the BNP a favour by granting them publicity when the reaction to his appearance on Question Time has done more to put him in the spotlight than anything the BBC has done. All the Beeb did was offer the guy a microphone - legitimately elected though that the guy is, he has a right to speak. It's up to politicians of all hues to dissect his argument - not the role of the BBC to censor.

Really interesting exchange between Scotland on Sunday editor Kenny Farquharson and Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie on Twitter:

is confused about people who call themselves liberals - they'll let a mass murderer go free but won't let an elected politician on the BBC

@KENNYFARQ An elected *fascist* politician should not be treated the same as others. And Megrahi's not free. He's dying.

@patrickharvie So a vote for a fascist is worth less, democratically, than a vote for another politician? That's a curious democracy.

@KENNYFARQ The vote's worth the same. But the BBC's a public service broadcaster; exists to serve the common good, which BNP opposes.

I have to side with the journalist (for a change). It is a curious democracy when you are willing to overlook close to one million votes because you don't like what someone says. It is a dark day for liberal democracy when we go down that path.


Polunskers 23 October 2009 at 14:00  

I thoroughly object to being called a fascist for not wanting politics to be lowered to gutter level like it was last night. Is your idea of freedom of speech absolutely without bounds? Even if it were proven to result in increased racial, religious and homophobic violence, would you still think fascists have to be given a platform on a major TV programmes to peddle their wares, or democracy is somehow threatened? How depressing that a whole Question Time had to be dedicated to defending people's right to live in their own country. Let Griifin talk when relevant to the story, don't let him lead the agenda.

Malc 23 October 2009 at 14:43  

That's the wonderful thing about democracy - your right to be offended by something someone else has said.

Perhaps I wasn't exactly clear in my comment with regards who I meant when I labelled those opposed to Griffin's appearance fascist. I did really mean those who had taken direct action - ie those who ran into BBC centre. Though I would suggest that the glove fits - fascism is opposed to openness and free debate, which is exactly the purpose of Griffin's appearance last night.

Further, I don't think it is depressing that "a whole Question Time had to be dedicated to defending people's right to live in their own country." Question Time is driven by the audience's questions. Those were their concerns - that was the subject they wanted to ask about.

Do you think Griffin and BNP attitudes came out of the show with their reputation enhanced? With people more likely to turn to them?

Malc 23 October 2009 at 15:17  

On reflection, I really wanted to make two points:

I don't like Nick Griffin any more than you do, and I like his politics even less.

Debating about his appearance on TV doesn't get to the heart of the issue for me. The man got elected - why?

We should focus on trying to eradicate the reasons that this happened. Some BNP voters have a genuine grievance that is NOT race related - social issues, employment in their area - that have NOT been dealt with by the government. That needs looked at.

Alternatively, as a short-term solution, we could put a 5% threshold into the electoral system for European elections (like the German system) which would stop them from being elected - but that would only force them into non-democratic areas.

AMW 23 October 2009 at 15:59  


I was one of the people who said the BNP should be allowed onto QT so the millions of viewers could at last see the scum that Griffin is.

But after watching the program i came to view that all i saw was one man being bullied and harassed and Jack Straw was inept when he was challenged over the rise of the BNP thanks to Labour.
Not that i entirely agree with that.

If i new the program was just going to be about 200 people chucking mud at one guy then i wished i had not even bothered to tune in and watch it.

The BBC made a balls up.
One last thing, I like Jack Straw and i think he is a very warm and decent person and i did feel sorry for him when that BNP rat mentioned the stuff about his grandfather during the war. Pure evil.

Polunskers 23 October 2009 at 16:06  

Of course most fair-minded people won't think he came across well. I would suggest that you're naive if you think they'll get anything but a big boost from such exposure. He's a household name now. Views some held shamefully in private become normalised, institutionally accepted. Many viewers had sympathy for Griffin as they thought he was bullied, some agreed with some of what he said. Masses more people are aware of them now. Here in Scotland where they aren't represented politically they've been over-exposed and potentially could become a far bigger political force than they were. They couldn't pay for that sort of publicity.

And of course when Griffin is on the panel the audience are going to ask about racism - they have to! Otherwise the guy gets a free run to sound like an ordinary politician, which is exactly what he wants. That will happen every time he's on the platform and completely prevents the open and free debates that - according to you - I'm supposed to oppose.

Malc 23 October 2009 at 16:08  


Of course you are entitled to your view and how you saw the programme. I think I saw it slightly differently though. Yes there was an element of bullying Griffin, but on the whole I thought when he talked, he definitely didn't cover himself in glory. Today's (better quality) press appears to conform to that view.

ScottishToryBoy 23 October 2009 at 16:10  

He's been a household name for ages, Polunskers.

Good post by the way, Malc

Malc 23 October 2009 at 16:16  


Are you suggesting the debate wasn't "open and free" because it focused on the issue which the audience - both at the debate and at home - wanted to see? I'm genuinely confused by that comment.

You don't want him on the show because it'll turn him into a mainstream politician and allow him to discuss issues "ordinary" politicians talk about, but when the audience spends the best part of an hour probing him on his racist views you complain that the focus is solely on his politics and there's no opportunity to discuss other issues. Surely there's some sort of paradox there?

I do agree, however, that showing the debate in Scotland may be an issue, given the distinct lack of support anywhere here for the BNP. This has just given them free airtime up here which they have not - at least through democratic election - merited. However, we'd be fools to think that racism and fascism is not an issue in Scotland, and we should be proactive in tackling the scourge of society here as well - which is what his appearance was intended as part of.

Malc 23 October 2009 at 16:19  

Thanks STB.

And perhaps I am being naive Polunskers. But the BNP have gone from nothing to winning close to 1 million votes, 2 MEPs and numerous councillors on the back of the "no-platform" policy. It hasn't worked in stopping people voting for them. We have to try debating with them.

Montague Burton 23 October 2009 at 16:36  

What even here Malc, where they have approximately 27,000 voters and haven't saved a deposit yet in any election in Scotland?

Malc 23 October 2009 at 16:46  


Yes. I know that 27,000 isn't much. But the BNP only got 35,000 votes UK wide in the 1997 General Election (and 100,000 in the 1999 Euro election).

12 years on, they got 800,000 in the European election. All I'm saying is, we shouldn't count our chickens - and we should guard against them.

dave 23 October 2009 at 17:13  


An interesting post - some of which I agree with.

However, I notice that you exempt your own parties spokesperson -Mike Russell -from criticism.

Does he, like you claim Peter Hain does, miss the point 'spectacularly'?

Malc 23 October 2009 at 17:39  


I hadn't seen that piece. I'll go with yes, he does - though where you get Mike Russell as "my own party's spokesperson" I don't know...

The point he makes is one I've dealt with in the comments here - that the BNP have a tiny following in Scotland and perhaps we should be questioning whether it was relevant to the political debate here to have the programme shown here.

But a qualification: Mike Russell doesn't say they shouldn't be on, merely that the BBC should explain why they've invited him. Peter Hain on the other hand doesn't recognise that the BNP's growth has - potentially - something to do with his own Government's inability to tackle social issues in some areas of England.

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