Question Time: Is That Panel Really the Best They Can Do?

Nick Griffin is the greatest orator since Pericles. He has gravitas such as we have not witnessed since Winston Churchill’s “blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech. His rapier wit makes Oscar Wilde sound like John Prescott. He has the encyclopaedic knowledge of a Paul Johnson; the courage of Charles Upham VC and bar; the loveability of Stephen Fry; the dramatic power of Fiona Shaw in some exceptionally moving new play about a lesbian who is slowly tortured to death by homophobic society…

Actually not – though you wouldn’t guess it from the general, angst-ridden debate about who best should be fielded against the BNP leader on tonight’s Question Time.

Nick Cohen has the details:

By this weekend, nervy producers were hitting the phones as they began to realise the 1,001 ways the show could go wrong. One minute, they booked Douglas Murray. He runs the Centre for Social Cohesion, which examines neo-Nazi, Islamist and other extremism in Britain. But he is also from the right, and so, the BBC reasoned, could tell the audience that it was possible to worry about immigration without being compelled to vote BNP. Murray was more than ready to take Griffin on, but the next minute the BBC called back with second thoughts. If he were to say anything in favour of immigration controls, Griffin would look like he was the voice of consensus. As confused call followed confused call, Murray formed the impression the BBC did not know what to do.

Nor do the political parties. Originally, the Conservatives put up Michael Gove, one of their best debaters. Then they decided that, as a British Asian, Lady Warsi would be the ideal face of progressive conservatism and a living rebuttal of BNP prejudice. So she would, had she not run a nasty campaign against the sitting Labour MP in Dewsbury in the 2005 election. In white areas, she declared that she would campaign “for British identity and British citizens” and fight the menace of mass immigration. In Muslim areas, the flag appeared in leaflets in a blood-spattered montage of Tony Blair and George Bush and troops in Iraq, while underneath it she played to religious homophobia by claiming that Labour was allowing children to be propositioned for homosexual relationships.

Jack Straw is a more formidable politician, but as a series of leaks to the Observer in 2006 showed, he spent a part of his time as foreign secretary trying to “engage” with the Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation that, in its origins and policies towards women, Jews and gays, is not so different from the BNP. So assiduous did Straw’s attempts at “engagement” become, the British ambassador to Egypt warned him he was engaging for the sake of engagement, and that there was no prospect of Britain being able “to influence the Islamists’ agenda”.

Me, I think the whole panel is pretty low-grade and that this particular edition wouldn’t even be worth watching if it weren’t for the Griffin factor. Bonnie Greer is too palpably nice and reasonable; Baroness Warsi’s talent is overrated beyond measure; Jack Straw (see Cohen above) is a dhimmi; and Chris Huhne – Chris Who?

At least Griffin’s likely to say something interesting, which is, after all, the point of Question Time is it not? It’s about entertainment. Gladiator sport. It’s not – though it’s amazing how many media commentators appear to think otherwise – the official occasion on which all the main parties gather together to make it quite clear how much they abhor racism. Duh! We knew that already. Now tell us what you think about immigration and Islamism. Otherwise Nick Griffin’s going to win more votes still.

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I’m Glad That the BNP’s Nick Griffin Is Appearing on Question Time

Well I’m sorry, but I am. I’m glad for various reasons, some of which have to do with freedom of speech and the democratic right of political parties which have won seats in local councils and in Europe to be represented on Britain’s main political debating programme.

Mainly, though, I’m glad because of the discomfiture it has caused among the chattering-idiot classes. Though personally I despise the BNP – as I do all parties of the left – the people I despise only marginally less are the ones who go round boasting about how incredibly outraged they are about how disgusting and wrong it is that Nick Griffin is appearing on Question Time.

“I don’t think you have ANY idea about how incredibly, amazingly un-racist I am,” runs the subtext of their boasting. “I am SO unracist that if I’d been around 250 years ago, do you know who I would have been? William Wilberforce, that’s who. Except if I’d been William Wilberforce I wouldn’t have stopped with banning slavery, no sirree. I would have made anti-race-hatred of any description so completely compulsory that there wouldn’t be a single piece of race hatred anywhere left in the world by now. We’d all be like ebony and ivory, living together in perfect harmony, side by side on the keyboard, just like on Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney on a piano. Only more harmonious than that even. Races and creeds wouldn’t exist any more. We’d all have skins made up of whatever colour you get when black and brown and white and yellow are all mixed together. A sort of beigey ecru, maybe. Cos that’s how anti-racist I am!”

It’s not just the nauseating smugness and self-righteousness of all these daringly outspoken Nick-Griffin-/BNP-haters that annoys me. Its the sheer fatuousness. In fact I can safely say that the moment I hear a person tell me how much they hate the BNP and/or how cross they are that Nick Griffin is appearing on Question Time, I know with absolute certainty that I can safely discount any political opinion they have on any other subject whatsoever. (Especially on Anthropogenic Global Warming, which they’re bound to believe is the second most serious threat to the world after racism, and sometimes even more serious than that!!!!)

Indeed, their sheer fatuousness is not merely annoying but actively dangerous – as Fraser Nelson points out on one of his ever-insightful blogs over at Spectator Coffee House. What this general, knee-jerk “oooh it’s the BNP! They’re racist! Pass the smelling salts!” response does is to lend further legitimacy to all the main parties’ ongoing refusal to address the real reasons why the BNP wins so many votes.

As Fraser says:

Some of their views (anti-EU, anti-mass immigration) are that of the mainstream in Britain but find no Westminster representation. Their racist views have no traction in a Britain which is perhaps the most tolerant country on earth. But on the stump, they campaign on other issues – including Westminster sleaze. To denounce them as a racist party ignores not only their multifaceted campaign style, but the concerns of the million-odd voters who backed them.

Exactly. So do remember that all you BNP-haters, next time you dare to venture – with the courage and deep insight which are your wont – how jolly disgusting you think Nick Griffin is. There’s no better recruiting sergeant for his cause than a dumb white liberal.

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