I think the decision by the BBC to invite Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, onto its Question Time show tonight is the right one.
I oppose everything the BNP stands for but the BBC has a public service duty to allow everyone, regardless of how odious their views are, the right to a hearing. I do not for one second accept that Sinn Fein should be classed in the same category as the BNP but it was a mistake to silence Gerry Adams’s voice (quite literally) in the 1980s and 1990s and I think it is self defeating to silence Nick Griffin’s voice now.
We have to face facts. In both Yorkshire and the North West, there are BNP MEPs. Nick Griffin got 8% of the vote in those elections. The party polled 8.9% in the North East and 8.6% in both the West and East Midlands. They polled 6.1% in the Eastern region, 5.5% in London, 5.4% in Wales, 4.4% in the South East and 3.9% in the South West. In places like Rotherham and Doncaster, they polled even higher. They are a political fact and a majority of people in a few communities voted for them. We cannot ignore this reality any more.
Labour’s ‘No Platform’ approach has been an utter failure as well. Pretending that they don’t exist, hoping that they will go away and just calling them ‘racist’ all the time hasn’t worked. We need a new strategy that proactively argues against the BNP’s views. That is why the Generals’ intervention earlier in the week was so effective.
I also think we should stop blaming the BBC for this. The real culprit is the Labour Government for spectacularly ignoring the working class over the last ten years, failing to listen to some of its legitimate grievances about housing and jobs and treating many members of the working class as if they are nothing more than an underclass or a bunch of 'chavs' (as we are now supposed to call them). Effective MPs like Jon Cruddas, Hazel Blears and David Blunkett, who speak to that working class demographic, are sadly few and far between.
I also think that if we give the BNP the opportunity to appear on shows like Question Time, it will allow us to interrogate their views and expose them for what they are. A Paxman interrogation of Nick Griffin would show him up for sure.
I think we should all watch Question Time tonight. I think we all need to be aware of what the BNP stands for so we can take them on. And in light of that, the other political parties, but notably Labour, need to rethink the way they deal with the BNP in the future.
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