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Question time with our MEP Nick Griffin

Jonathan Schofield finds Question Time disturbing, uncomfortable and totally unbalanced - but in the end worthwhile

Written by . Published on October 23rd 2009.


Question time with our MEP Nick Griffin

So there was one of my MEPs, Nick Griffin, on Question Time, in an ill-fitting suit, looking like an unsuccessful carpet saleman, refusing to concede that the Holocaust in its accepted form took place.

There he was mentioning ‘militant homosexuals’ (who?) and squirming when faced with views he’d previously aired such as wanting the UK to be 99% white. There was my MEP twisting to distort the truth about sharing debating space with the Klu Klux Clan, and about the true nature of a party which has being forced to change its rules about not allowing white members in its ranks.

There was my Euro representative laughing nervously, looking shifty, sweating and squirming as the Question Time panel and audience destroyed him. Whether it was Bonnie Greer, writer and cultural commentator, or politicians Chris Huhne, Jack Straw or Sayeeda Warsi facing up to him, it didn’t matter, he lost every time.

As Chris Huhne said, “You are the leader of a party based explicitly on race and this is unique. Yours are the politics of finding people to blame, of peddling hate and fear against minorities.”

Griffin had no response to this, and went spiralling off into nonsense, referring to the "genocide of the indigenous peoples of Britain by immigration". It was about this time he called me an aborigine. According to Griffin us aborigines are those who are descended from people who came to the UK after the last Ice Age. Because of this we deserve to be here more than others, certainly more than black and brown-skinned people.

There’s more than a whiff of David Icke about Nick Griffin. Remember Icke the ex-TV presenter turned guru who believes we’re being controlled by reptilian humanoids. He thinks up unprovable nonsense and then convinces himself it's all real.

Yet throughout the hour long airing of Question Time there was something nagging away at the brain. This wasn’t the Question Time I’ve viewed before.

This was Beat Up BNP Time with even the lead presenter, David Dimbleby, joining in. It was funny on occasion, it was instructive too, but it was savage. It looked and sounded biased and unbalanced. This probably reflects the ‘disgust’, as one of the audience put it, against the BNP, but in terms of the BBC's lofty ideals of impartiality it was ugly.

In the districts where Griffin has most support, in the estates in our own back yard in the North West, it must have seemed familiar. In neighbourhoods beset by long-term unemployment, poor education and high crime it must have seemed again, that the little Brit, the white-guy who got left behind, was being picked on by the nasties in the Establishment and the Metropolitan elite.

Of course if I’d been on that panel I don’t think I could have bottled up my anger when faced by the weird illogic of the BNP as voiced by this least charismatic of party leaders.

But Dimbleby should have handled Question Time better, should have mixed up the questions more, given us

less audience opinion. The one off-topic question was about Stephen Gately and whether Daily Mail hack Jan Moir was right to jump on his still warm corpse with criticism of his gay lifestyle. It was so very off-topic, it was like someone sitting on a whoopee cushion at a public enquiry. Within two panel responses we were back on the BNP.

The final question on the programme was whether the appearance of Griffin on the show had been an early Christmas present for the BNP. Some said yes, it was a fine recruiting poster for the party, validating their views by giving them exposure on such an august broadcasting vehicle. Others said no, given Griffin’s dreadful, shifty, inarticulate defence of his position, and the blanket negative coverage throughout the week, it had been a terrible few days for the BNP.

A more pertinent question was avoided, which was should the BBC have allowed Griffin on the programme at all? Well given their own rules, given Griffin has an electoral mandate from the Euro elections, given the BBC have allowed minority parties such as UKIP and the Greens on before, they could hardly not allow him on.

We return to the question of free speech.

On Channel 4 news before Question Time, Margaret Hodge, a member of the Labour Government, got it dead right.

She said: “I’ve had him (Griffin) campaigning at my constituency in Barking in the past. At polling stations he’s attacked me personally as an immigrant and as a Jew. He’s a nasty, nasty man. But we debate through democracy not through censorship in the United Kingdom, that is our tradition.”

The protesters outside the London studios and up and down the country missed this point completely. But then with their Socialist Worker placards they would do, wouldn’t they? The left and the right eventually meet as we all know, coming full circle from opposite sides. In the end if given power both the BNP and those protestors, would want to shut people up, with violence if necessary, and allow only one point of view to be given airtime; their own.

As Michael Portillo said on the This Week show after Question Time, “It almost made me physically sick this morning when I heard Ken Livingstone (left wing ex-London Mayor) saying that he didn’t want Griffin on Question Time.” Portillo went on to describe how Livingstone had wanted public debate with Marxist IRA terrorists in the seventies whilst they were murdering British citizens. More recently Livingstone has invited holocaust deniers, with no constituency in the UK, over from the Middle East to speak.

We can’t have it both ways, so let’s have it our way. The way as nation we have stumbled towards for hundreds of years, let people, certainly once they have a constituency, have their voice.

And in this way let’s give them enough rope to hang themselves. Griffin was a shambles last night. Question Time brutally exposing his incoherent nonsense. It was humiliating for him. It’s true that in some areas his beating up might have reinforced support but most people would have seen that this comical, bewildered and confused figure is not quite the person we would want running the country. Not ever, even after the next Ice Age, when the new aborigines, or whatever, arrive.

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