Nick Griffins appearance on Question Time was controlled by mob rule, wherby the tactics of a racist were deployed against a racist – prodding, provoking and inciting that which is different and un-orthodox. The BNP were not tackled as a party fixated on race. Lets either facilitate proper debate or open up our political sytem to individuals and parties who can.
So far the response to Nick Griffins appearance on Question Time has been dominated buy a mixture of fierce attacks against Griffin and a focus on Griffinesque soundbites such as his bizarre response to a question posed regarding his views on the Holocaust; “’I cannot explain why I used to say those things,”. Yet Nick Griffins appearance on Question Time was indicative of our selective, un-open political process in which we treat what should have been an opportunity to expose the BNP for their lack of political understanding of key issues, into a forum whereby the mob ruled; prodding, provoking and teasing for a reaction in the same way I imagine a group of racists would do to someone seen as ‘different’.
The BNP, and characters such as Nick Griffin, should have no place in serious political discourse. This isn’t just because their policies are blatantly racist, but also because they are political lightweights, unable to comment on issues such as the recession and the postal strike without linking back to the topic of race. The BBC, and our political establishment (since the panel on Question Time are meant to represent our political elite), would have upheld their integrity if Griffin was treated like any other member of the panel. The programme should have followed the format expected of Question Time whereby four or five topics are addressed in which members of the panel give their views on each and facilitate debate amongst themselves and the audience. Instead, from the word go, the panel, Dimbleby included, and the audience turned into a seething mob who unleashed attack after attack on Nick Griffin as an individual, not on the British National Party per se. The result? Nick Griffin as an individual comes off as a political lightweight, but the BNP as a party are by no means discredited. Indeed, a YouGov poll the following Saturday revealed that 22% of voters would “seriously consider” voting for the BNP in a future local, national, or European election.
We all know how vile Nick Griffin is, and we all know that he has, in the past, denied the extent of the Holocaust and has a number of other racist comments attached to his name, all of which have been documented and all of which are accessible by simply Googling Griffins name. Why then did the majority of his appearance on Question Time follow this course; “Mr Griffin, I have here document A which shows you said X about Y”, to which Griffin would reply; “I didn’t say those things”, or “I have changed my mind now”. Quite frankly, I thought the programme was pathetic for accommodating a mob atmosphere whereby Nick Griffin was prodded and provoked in the hope that he would say something vile and disgusting, like “Ok, I admit it, I only like white people, and I only want white people in Britain”. If Griffin had been engaged in the topical issues of the day such as the postal strike, the recession, or the upcoming Copenhagen summit, we would have seen how politically incapable he is as an individual, but more importantly the BNP as a political party would have been shown up as politically incapable. One can assume that if Griffin was engaged in such a way that he would have somehow, bizarrely, linked the economic crisis to the issue of race, the postal strike to the issue of race, and even the environmental crisis to the issue of race – “its those brown leaves that are the problem, theyre steeling all the green leaves trees”.
Resentment for the BNP is strong. Unfortunately, they are well positioned in areas where our old mass industries have now disappeared, and where immigration into these areas – increasing competition for jobs – has created the perfect breeding ground for the BNP’s racist policies. We should counter the BNP by one of two tactics – preferably the second. Firstly, we provide a platform, such as Griffins appearance on Question Time, where the BNP are engaged in political debate on a range of issues – showing them as a party incapable of commenting on any issue without discussing race. Secondly, we alter our political system whereby individuals feel let down and un-represented by our three main political parties, and create a more proportional system. This would open up the political floor to new parties able to represent the views of people from poor communities competing for jobs without reverting to inflammatory rhetoric, policy absence and racism. In any case, you do not counter a convicted racist and leader of a racist party by engaging in the tactics of a racist – prodding, provoking and inciting that which is un-orthodox and different.
First published November 01st 2009