In the end, it became an embarrassment.
After having the nation(s) worked up in a frenzy about the presence of Nick Griffin MEP, leader of the British National Party, in Question Time, it turns out that he is a political lightweight, a lame-duck panellist unwilling or unable to convey his views with any sincerity or even conviction. It was revealing in more than one way.
First, the decision to invite him to the program by the BBC.
It is understandable that many people were oppose to his appearance. It gives the BNP a platform to peddle their message of hatred and ignorant racism. However, whether we like it or not, the BNP has a number of councillors in England, and achieved 6% of the UK vote at the last European elections, resulting in two BNP MEPs being elected.
On that basis, the BBC did the right thing.
The lesson perhaps for militant anti-fascist campaigners is that we should not be afraid of giving people like the BNP a platform. Mr Griffin got challenged last night in a way he has not been challenged so far in his other BBC appearances on his own. By trying to prevent the BNP being invited to the BBC, the Left (whatever this means nowadays) gives ammunition to the sense of grievance and persecution that feeds the BNP at local, grassroots level.
Last night’s performance by Griffin was an embarrassment to his party and to himself.
There is nothing to be afraid of. Cambridge degrees are over-rated. Now, when are the Greens getting invited to Question Time?
What the anti-fascist movement and in general the Left, far-left or whatever we want to call it has to do is to challenge the BNP in local communities –and get elected representatives. It speaks volumes of the inability of the socialist/communists parties that the BNP can achieve 20% of the vote in some local communities, and even 6% at UK level, but the Left parties have no representation whatsoever, not even after a banking-induced crisis. And in Scotland, where the SSP managed to get 6 MSPs out of 135, they immolated themselves in typical Left fashion and now they have 1.
Nick Griffin lost his composure very quickly. He was unable to answer any question with any conviction or sincerity. When he was offered total judicial immunity by Jack Straw, Home Secretary, to explain his views on the Holocaust, he bottled it.
When it came to forced repatriation, something that is a key message of the BNP, he bottled it again.
Even when asked about what does he mean by “indigenous peoples”, he also crumbled, unable to muster any kind of coherent response. Well, I have no such qualms and I dare say that the “indigenous” peoples he means are white folk of British or Irish stock. Well, at least some progress is being made: now the Irish are in.
Throughout the programme, it appeared to me that he was just trying to explain what his party really stands for, and thus he failed to answer most questions. If I was a BNP supporter, I would be furious that such a precious opportunity has been wasted.
Particularly, when the panel was nothing to write home about.
Bonnie Greer, admittedly someone I find slightly annoying, could not be bothered. She was like a car in second gear. I understand that for someone of mixed race sitting next to Mr Griffin must be quite repulsive but this should not be an excuse for ambivalence. That she managed to unnerve Mr Griffin saying so little and in such an half-arsed manner reveals how weak and feeble the BNP really is.
Jack Straw was in professional politico mode -a total turn-off. Failed to answer the question on immigration he was asked and failed to recognise that immigration is a problem for some communities, and that the Labour government has let these communities down by first failing to control immigration, failing to invest in these deprived areas, and failing to put a stop to the myths progagated by the BNP about immigrants’ benefits, rights and so on.
Baroness Varsi (I never thought I would see an Asian Tory peer, the world is changing really fast...) was also in professional politician mode. Her quote of “rights and responsibilities” made me cringe. Typical “compassionate Conservative” tone and discourse. How she can live amongst the Tories is beyond me.
Chris Humne for the Lib Dems was perhaps the most convincing (or least unconvincing) of the other panellist. He would have made a fine LibDem leader and I am not sure why he was not elected to the post.
In the aftermath of the debate, BNP supporters have come out in force and denounced the “lynching” or “witch hunt” to which Mr Griffin was a victim of.
And for what? For being given a rough time. For being challenged. Well, Blair was given a rough time too when he was called a war criminal and he put up with it and did not cry like a big blouse.
It just shows how feeble is the BNP threat that the scrutiny of a mediocre panel and amateurish audience is enough to send them home crying “foul”. It is a bit rich coming from the BNP to use words like mob or lynching –they irony seems to have been lost on them however.
Now he is demanding a repeat of the programme, and also a one-on-one debates with Jack Straw and also with Cameron. No less.
The problem is that Mr Griffin has already had a chance at the big time –and blew it. It did not make good television, and it did not show him up in a good light. Why asking for more punishment?
Because this is how the BNP thrives. By playing victim to a "far-left BBC conspiracy" (has he not read Mrs Flanders?) it is easier to go door-to-door in the deprived, working class neighbourhoods in England and point out how the establishment are protecting immigrants against the white English. The BNP will keep getting councillors elected, and probably will get another MEP next time. But that should not worry us too much. Are we naïve enough to think only 10% of the electorate in this country are racist?
BBC News – Key extracts
BBC News – Mr Griffin complaints about a “lynch mob”
BBC News – voters’ reaction in Dagenham, London
BBC News – media reaction summary
BBC News - The BNP and the white working class
Best of the rest:
The Herald – 8m tune in,
The Times – writers’ review summary