Question Time is the BBC’s flagship political debate show in which a panel of four or five political figures discuss the issues of the day and answer questions posed by a studio audience. This week one of the panel members will be Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party.
And in my view, this is a mistake. Generally I’m a fan of the BBC, but on this BNP issue they’ve got it wrong. Nick Griffin should never be invited to appear on Question Time.
Context is everything.
See, it’s fine to interview Griffin (on the BBC or anywhere else). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not proposing that the BNP or any other political party be censored. By all means invite him onto Newsnight and have Paxman grill him about the legality of his party’s constitution. But when you give a fascist a platform, you must ensure it’s a clearly labelled platform. That kind of ethnic nationalism needs to be ringfenced and signposted. We already know where it leads. And we’ve seen it happen enough times now to be aware that it’s not something that can be ignored. It’s not like we arbitrarily decided to repress some random political ideology. Just plucked it out of a hat on a particularly slow day at the UN. Racial supremacy and ethnic nationalism have a well-established track record. It’s a dangerous tendency and it tears apart societies when it gets strong enough.
Can you even begin to imagine a Britain where the BNP polled enough of the (white) vote to establish a government? Imagine the consequences of such a social divide! That’s what the BNP is actively seeking and campaigning for, never forget it; a disaffected Britain, paranoid and riven with internal fractures. An ugly place dominated by viciousness and suspicion and hatred of The Other. You’d imagine we’d have moved past that by now, learnt the lessons — the numerous lessons — of history. Does Britain really want ethnic violence on the streets? Because the BNP… they kind of do. And worse perhaps? You only need to ask the people of the Balkans how quickly things get out of hand when that kind of ideology gains enough traction.
So when the BNP — or any ethnic nationalist — appear in the mainstream media, that’s the context they should be presented in. Introduce them as fascists, let them speak their piece, then remind everyone they’ve just been listening to fascists.
What the BBC should not be doing, is inviting the BNP onto Question Time as though they were just another feature on the political landscape. This is effectively normalising the fascist voice. Removing the ringfence. Bringing it to the discussion and lending it the same weight as any other voice. That right there is a textbook example of ethnic nationalism starting to gain traction.
The BNP are a fit subject to be discussed on Question Time. They should not be participants.