Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Great Opportunity?

Just back from Bath with the family. On the journey, I happened to catch an extended interview the PM did today with Real Radio. Inevitably, he was asked about Nick Griffin's appearance on the Question Time programme, which is kicking off shortly. He said that this was a "great opportunity" to put pressure on the BNP and expose them for who they are. Unfortunately, in the truncated news bulletins, this was shortened considerably to (and I paraphrase) "BNP leader Nick Griffin appears on the Question Time programme this evening. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said this was a great opportunity". Oh dear...

Almost every element of the BBC's decison to allow Griffin onto Question Time seems to have been mismanaged and poorly thought through. This is clearly a complex issue, but I'm not sure the BBC properly appreciated the extent to which their invitation represented for the racists a genuine "Rubicon" moment. I think it's beginning to dawn on Beeb executives now, as well as the rest of the political world.

To be clear, this is an issue on which I have some "form". As a student hack, I made a name for myself challenging my students' union's position of 'No Platform' - i.e. racists or fascists were barred from promoting their policies during debates. As a callow starter, for me, this was simply an issue about democracy - the best way to challenge the far right and deal with their obnoxious policies was via open debate. Preventing a public dialogue only served to undermine the credibility of the true supporters of democracy. It was an issue I cared passionately about, and my motion carried the day.

Now with twenty-five or so years experience under my belt, I see things a little differently. I apply to this matter my 'law of unintended consequences' test. An analogy is with the legalisation of drugs. I fully respect the views of those who think that all drugs should be liberalised as a matter of freedom of choice. Similarly, there is also a rational argument that says that the decriminalisation of hard drugs would weaken the drug traffikers, and at a stroke take the profiteering out of the trade. For me, however, the logical endpoint of allowing heroin or cannabisd to be legalised means that as a society we are quite content with seeing kids as young as 9 or 10 shooting up on street corners. For sure, that is not what the well-meaning proponents of legalisation intend. But if heroin or cocaine have the same legal status as alcohol or tobacco, you can be sure that out streets would be as awash with these substances. They would have gained a degree of acceptability currently denied, for all of the imperfections of the current law. A critical 'line in the sand' would have been crossed.

So it is with the BNP. I do not doubt for one second the uncanny ability of the far right to let slip its true face behind the mask. Nick Griffin likening the heads of our Armed Services to war criminals at Nuremberg was a ghastly slip on several levels - reminding us of the Nazi horror democratic societies fought at such cost during World War II, as well as the likely fate of nay-sayers in any (hypothetical) BNP government. Comparing himself to Churchill, as Griffin has also done recently, would be laughable were it not so offensive to a giant of a statesman who spent the best part of his life to warning the free world about the dangers of fascism, and then committing every sinew of his being to fighting its scourge.

Still, with their invitation onto Question Time, the BNP has crossed a rubicon all of its own. The BBC has signalled that it is now part of mainstream political discourse in this country. Executives at the Corporation have argued that the votes gained at this year's European elections have made their appearence inevitable. I beg to differ.

Are we ready now to welcome in the BNP into every debate we have as a society. When we talk about health, or education or defence, must there be someone there advocating that Muslims are stigmatised as terrorists, or that your nationality is determined by the colour of your skin? Are you ready for a teacher at your kids' school to be a BNP member and to question the Holocaust as a gigantic hoax? Are you ready for that? Because I'm not.

Question Time is about to begin. I have no doubt the panellists to a man and woman will combine to give Griffin the (verbal) working over his nauseous politics deserve. But don't be fooled into thinking that things haven't fundamentally changed for the worst afterwards.


Anonymous said...

IanH said..
Third attempt at leaving a comment...
not sure if its me or the site?
Anyway, my two-penneth:

It is my belief that you and some of the media are looking to bolt the stable door long after the bnp horse has departed the stable.

the Bnp, sadly, already have a core support in this country and in my view only by exposing their true colours will we ensure that they go back to the gutter where they belong.

Whilst the apparent rise in the popularity of the bnp is not all it seems (their actual vote is largely unchanged) there is no doubt that an element within our society is looking to the bnp for answers.

This where the mainstream parties in general and the labour party in particular must look to themselves for the reasons why. These disafected groups usually inhabit what have been labour party heartlands for generations and their disafection with labour is a very sad inditement of the current standing of the party.

As far as the bbc coverage goes i believe that it is right that the wider tv audience sees for itself the appalling nature of what lies beneath their wafer thin veneer of respectability.
The fascists must be confronted at every opportunity, be it the doorstep or the tv studio.
Your own blog has already shown how the sharp suits and pr savvy leadership can do nothing to hide the reality of this fascist organisation.
Griffins holocaust denial and friendship with the kkk was witnessed by all. This can only be good for ensuring that the great british public are fully aware as to what they are doing should they consider registering a protest vote with the bnp.

However i did find the aggressive tactics of the anti-fascists outside the bbc to be unnecesary and no doubt will be played upon by the fascists as an example of how they are somehow the victims of the left.

In conclusion, it is no good blaming the bbc for giving the the bnp this coverage, it is the fault of the mainstream parties for alienating our communities that have become the fertile ground for the promotion of the bnp.

Paul Cain said...


Nick Griffin is an arse. We knew that. But he's an arse who got nearly a million votes at the Euro elections because of your party.
We knew that too.

Can I ask you about the ONS figures this morning (sorry to go off topic, but you really ought to start an open thread for occasions like this), which show that the UK economy is in its longest recession since at least 1955?

Bizarre, isn't it, how the quarter-wit you call your party leader, still insists that the UK is better placed to emerge from recession than other countries?

Given that the UK's recovery will be at least 6 months behind the rest of the world, isn't it time for you to admit Gordon is talking total bollocks?

Instead of worrying about the BNP, which will attract perhaps 3 per cent of the vote at the General Election, can we discuss the fact that your government has delivered a recession as bad as that of the Thatcher government you so despise, in 1980?

(The figures: Under Thatcher the economy contracted by 6 per cent; under Brown it's down by 5.9 per cent, but over a much longer period).

Some legacy for an economic genius like Gordon Brown, eh? He's done more damage than Margaret Thatcher.....

Paul Cain said...

Morning Councillor

Regarding the BNP issue. I've just seen this reported back in the UK (on various newspaper websites and political blogs.

Given the furore over Nick Griffin, it would be instructive to have your opinion.

"Huge increases in immigration over the past decade were a deliberate attempt to engineer a more multicultural Britain, a former Government adviser said yesterday.

Andrew Neather, a speechwriter who worked in Downing Street for Tony Blair and in the Home Office for Jack Straw and David Blunkett, said Labour's relaxation of controls was a plan to 'open up the UK to mass migration'.

As well as bringing in hundreds of thousands to plug labour market gaps, there was also a 'driving political purpose' behind immigration policy, he claimed.
Shoppers on Oxford Street.

Ministers hoped to change the country radically and 'rub the Right's nose in diversity'. But Mr Neather said senior Labour figures were reluctant to discuss the policy, fearing it would alienate its 'core working-class vote'.

On Question Time, Mr Straw was repeatedly quizzed about whether Labour's immigration policies had left the door open for the BNP."

Mr Neather goes on to say that from 2000 to February this year, te 'deliberate policy' was to bring mas immigration to te UK. Again, Ministers were too afraid to admit this openly.

So, what do you say Councillor? Immigration on a record scale, with all the problems it has, and will, bring, was an act of political spite.

It was to deliver diversity for diversity's sake. Why? What is so precious about diversity, per se?

And why, do you imagine, Ministers were frightened to acknowledge the policy openly?

What say you, Councillor?

Anonymous said...

He's gawn all silent again Mr. Cain.

Anonymous said...

Truth getting out Cllr Wallis?