No doubt the debate about BNP leader Nick Griffin's appearance on BBC "Question Time" will rumble on for several days to come, so here's our grumpy take on it: it was an appalling exhibition and brought no credit to almost anyone involved - Griffin himself, the panellists, chairman David Dimbleby, the audience or the BBC.
The one possible exception was Sayeeda Warsi, conservative spokesman on "social cohesion", whatever that is. Despite being the panellist who had the most reason to despise Griffin, being both asian and a Muslim, she was impressive - firm, clear, coherent and fluent. She put Jack Straw and Chris Huhne to shame. The remaining panellist was the coloured (are we allowed to say that?) academic Bonnie Greer, who was intelligent and likeable but seemed to be taking the whole thing a bit too personally for comfort or clarity.
Speaking this morning, Diane Abbott MP accused bosses of turning Griffin into a victim as he was so strongly savaged by panellists and the audience. Miss Abbott, the country's best-known black politician, claimed the format had been deliberately engineered to humiliate the BNP leader.
'It’s all very well in the morning to say "oh well, he got smashed" but in the long run people who are attracted to the BNP will come away saying "he was a victim",' she said. She's right. The BBC has so far received 357 complaints about last night's Question Time, of which 243 callers actually alleged bias against Mr Griffin.
A record number of viewers tuned in to watch this edition of Question Time, but if they thought they were finally going to get a look at the BNP and its leader, to hear from the horse's mouth what this controversial and disreputable party are all about, they were disappointed. The great majority of the programme was devoted to the chairman, the panellists and the audience telling Griffin what he said, what he believed, and what his policies were. On the rare occasions when he was allowed to speak for himself, he was incoherent, rambling and faintly ridiculous. Plainly if this had been a rational discussion about actual issues, he would have exposed himself for the fraud he certainly is, but the BBC had obviously decided that this was not to be.
Most of the blame for this must be directed at the chairman, David Dimbleby. There's a tradition among us old folk that a chairman must conduct himself impartially and do everything to facilitate a fair and balanced discussion, but clearly we are out of date. Dimbleby was anything but impartial. On the contrary, he joined in the witch-hunt as much as anyone else. But the BBC had nobbled the whole thing from the start - this was never intended to be a reasonable and informative discussion.
It was intended to be a public lynching.
The audience was packed with liberal lefties and minority activists, grinning through their teeth and baying as they watched their enemy stripped, laid bare and savaged. They'd come to give the pathetic little fascist a good kicking, and they were having a really good time. One audience member, David Kernohan from Norfolk, is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying 'He came across very badly. By the end, the audience were essentially ridiculing him and shouting things at him. He was obviously very nervous. I don't think he would be pleased with the performance. He made a fool of himself and will have turned moderate people off the party. He's shot himself in the foot. It was excellent - a good day for democracy.' Nice, David Kernohan. Politics in the vocabulary of the football terraces, and that's a good day for democracy?
Though Griffin's grasp of history was evidently very selective - he plainly studied at the David Icke School of Sociology - he wasn't the only one. He attracted huge amounts of opprobrium for using the expression "indigenous people", by which he meant the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish, but in fact it was his attackers who were adrift: "indigenous" means "born of, or produced naturally in, a region" (Concise Oxford). Insofar as anyone can be said to be indigenous in these islands which have been subject to a number of invasions in early history, most recently by the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans, it has to be the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish. We've been born naturally here for many generations. The man may be objectionable, but in this respect he wasn't wrong, and the rest of the panel were. Of course this begs the question of the children of immigrants - surely, they are born here naturally as well? But no one said that. There was no mileage in being logical.
Griffin also got into deep water when he attempted - amateurishly and rather rashly, it has to be said - to address the issue of homosexuality. Yet again he was howled down. Bonnie Greer said afterwards that he was shaking like a leaf throughout. You might say he deserved it - he probably did.
But that's not the point, is it? He may deserve this treatment, but we don't.
We have a right to expect that our publicly funded broadcaster will try to present us with the facts in a rational manner. We have a right to expect that prominent politicians like Straw and Huhne will demonstrate to us why their policies are right and the BNP's are wrong. We have a right to expect that an experienced and influential broadcaster and commentator like Dimbleby will manage the programme in such a way that we are able to make up our own minds about what to think, not to be bludgeoned by a baying mob.
Because, frankly, this is too important a matter to be decided by the liberal left and their mock outrage. Sooner or later we, the voters, are going to have to make up our own minds. The BNP has already achieved some small electoral success, and the public humiliation of their leader isn't going to stop them. If anything, last night's débacle will make them stronger.
You see, in so far as the BNP can be said to have any policies, they are our policies. The BNP has had the low, shallow cunning to recognise what the majority of people think, and adapt its own stance to suit.
The majority of people in this country are concerned about the bullying tactics of the gay lobby, and about the excessive rights the government have allowed them. Gay adoption is a case in point, and so is the idea that gay issues can be introduced to young children in school. But anyone who raises a dissenting or even questioning voice is immediately plastered with "homophobe" labels. Balanced, rational discussion is something as alien to the left as it is to the far right.
The staple diet of the far right in the middle of the twentieth century was their hatred of the Jews. But there's no stomach among white people in this country for anti-Semitism today, so that has quietly dropped out of Nick Griffin's ideology. On the other hand, the majority of the people in this country are very worried about uncontrolled immigration - and whatever the government says, we all know that it is uncontrolled. We learned only this week that they haven't the faintest idea where 40,000 illegal immigrants are. They just "assume" that they've all gone home. Yes, that's really likely.
The majority of people are dismayed by the massive increase in our population and the predicted increase over the next few years - and being dismayed about it doesn't mean that they are racist, it just means that they realise who it is that will have to foot the bill, who it is that will pay for the schools that need to be built, the already overstretched NHS facilities that will have to be expanded, the extra teachers, the extra doctors and nurses, the extra welfare payments.
That's not racist. It's good financial sense, and ALL political parties should be seen to have robust and sensible policies to deal with it. At the moment, only the BNP is offering policies that are easy to understand. They're absurd, but they coincide with the fears of the man in the street, and no amount of left-wing posturing can alter that. Unless the main parties can offer an appealing alternative, it's inevitable that the BNP will continue to prosper.
But that's a bit too hard for our left-leaning institutions to manage, isn't it? They'd rather take refuge in spite and invective, and even though they're directed at someone who almost certainly deserves both, they are no proper, civilised alternative to effective political debate. If there had been an effective political debate, the man would have been shown for the light-weight opportunist he is.
But there wasn't, and it's our notion of democracy that suffered.
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