Oct 2009

The BNP on Question Time in retrospect

Well, I’m disappointed it went ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Nick Griffin put in a stellar performance. He certainly didn’t. But I never expected him to. That was never the issue. He was always going to look either nasty or idiotic when forced to defend his views. Because his views are nasty and idiotic. That was never in doubt.

There were those who insisted it was actually a good thing that the BNP were appearing. In the comments to my previous piece on this, Joel argues that “it puts his neck closer to the noose so he can hang himself”. And there are many who share this view. He’ll be damned by his own words, they say, so let him speak.

I don’t share that view. Which is not to say it’s wrong. Merely that an appearance on Question Time doesn’t only damn him by his own words. It has other consequences too. Some of which are negative. “The BNP are not being normalised into society by being on Question Time, it’s just having a clown on”, wrote Joel. But I humbly suggest that it’s both. It almost always is. He may indeed have moved a few millimeters closer to the noose. But we tend to hang fascists after they’ve killed a bunch of people.

It’s taken the National Front decades to evolve to the point where their suited representatives now get invited on Question Time. This was never about an overnight bump in the polls, but about how the fascist voice slowly but surely enters everyday political debate. The next decade may well be a fertile breeding ground for fascism. I believe the global economy will begin to absorb the fact that the days of “growth” are coming to an end. I think resource depletion will become a mainstream and frightening idea and even if we succeed in shifting to a sustainable model, the transition period could involve major social upheaval. The kind of environment that the Far Right historically tends to exploit. The very last thing we should be doing as the global economy teeters on the brink is inviting the BNP, and those like them, into mainstream debate.

Just before Question Time last night the BBC News discussed the issue themselves. And the language used very clearly implied that this would be the first of several invites extended to the BNP leader. This very fact… that the BNP leader gets regular invitations to debate with the other parties before an audience of millions… makes it far more likely that Griffin will be replaced sooner or later by someone more effective at the job. And you can pretty much guarantee that by the BNP’s third appearance on Question Time, Dimbleby won’t be dedicating 90% of the show to picking them apart. There’ll be the inevitable couple of “BNP questions”, but otherwise Griffin will get to speak freely on subjects where his views may resonate with millions. I happen to think his positions on the Iraq / Afghanistan wars are fairly sound, for instance, and in that discussion he’ll come across as the sane one compared to the tories and labour. Last night there was one non-BNP question. Next time?

I’m also irritated by how reasonable he made Jack Straw appear. “Contributing to the credibility of Jack Straw” is itself an unforgiveable offence. Both Griffin and the BBC are responsible for that crime against the people.

Overall though, I’m worried that the BBC set a bad precedent last night. It’ll be a long time before we know for sure, but why even take the risk when it comes to fascism?

Posted in: Opinion