Political parties like the BNP tap into feelings of disillusion and fear that need to be discussed, tempered and met by politicians who are not racist and xenophobic and so Nick Griffin’s appearance on the BBC last night should be welcomed and was necessary. Just not on Question Time.
If not a ‘Christmas Present’ to the BNP as Peter Hain had predicted, Griffin’s appearance on Question Time was a waste of an opportunity to grill a man whose views just do not stand up to any vigorous interrogation. Filled up by pointless questions, statements and whooping from the audience, waffling from the panel and adverts about following Question Time on twitter, Griffin escaped from the battering that he should have received. The BNP leader looked genuinely uncomfortable only when the format of the show was bypassed and he was asked to directly explain his views. When David Dimbleby produced a list of his apparent ‘misquotes’ or when Jack Straw clarified that there was nothing in British law that stopped him explaining why he had changed his mind on the severity of the Holocaust, Griffin looked ignorant, malicious and awkward. Yet, these moments were too rare, offering a glimpse of what might have been if Griffin had an hour of proper questioning to survive.
Obviously there are pluses to having Griffin on a popular TV show. The audience for this Question Time will be larger than normal and I am sure mine was not the only JCR that was busy during the show. It is important for the public to see that a bad politician is not necessarily someone who over-claims for a duck house but actually someone who would like to use the political system to purify the British race. Exposing Griffin’s political ability to a large audience is worthwhile. He is a competent speaker but seeing his fat fingers shaking with nerves, his awkward shuffle and creepy smile should put to bed the myth that the BNP’s rise is down to Griffin’s public speaking ability. It isn’t. It is because a section of society that fell threatened by the way Britain is changing and isolated from the main political parties can relate to the messages of the BNP but not to those of Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg.
“He has the answers, well packaged and well rehearsed”
We should have had a discussion about this phenomenon, and what the main parties are doing about it. Instead we got questions from the man in the green pullover (or was it brown?). With respect to those ethnic minorities who feel – rightly – disgusted by what Griffin stands for, what is the point in telling him that your parents have done a lot for this country or asking him where he suggest you go once he purifies the race. He has the answers, well packaged and well rehearsed. ‘It is nothing to do with colour’, according to his pre prepared answers, it is about preserving a culture that is dying, about standing up for the white British who cannot get a job and whose community is changing beyond recognition.
The cheers from the audience or JCR when a well-put question ended in some condemnation of the BNP and Griffin are all well and good but British Asians and PPE students on a break from the library don’t reflect the people that are voting for him. Aside from the times mentioned above when Griffin’s personal views were actually interrogated, when he was forced to clarify if Hitler did ‘go too far’, there was nothing that I saw in the programme that would have made a BNP voter change their mind. A perfect example was when the three political parties had to explain their policies on immigration. Griffin was right to say that Chris Huhne sounded muddled because he did. And David Dimbleby was right to accuse Jack Straw of not answering the question of New Labour’s culpability in the BNP’s rise because he was plainly avoiding confronting the answer. When you have a panel show where other politicians have areas they would rather not talk about it offers comparability, and legitimacy, to the areas that Griffin does not want to be pressed on.
“There was potential for so much more”
There were times, of course, when Griffin looked stupid and nasty because what he stands for is. Yet there potential for so much more. You could almost hear the sigh of relief from Griffin when Bonnie Greer interjected with didactic stories from the Ice Age and the Roman Empire – BNP support is not built around ignorance of ancient civilisations. If you adjusted for whoop, waffle and clap time, how many minutes was Griffin actually put on the spot? He should have been challenged, not by inane questions about how much he has travelled but by forensic analysis of the basis of his thoughts that two men kissing is ‘creepy’ or the Islam is vicious or that the Holocaust was exaggerated.
Nick Griffin; down but not out. It could have been so much better.