Should BNP be on Question Time?

October 22, 2009

Nick GriffinOn Thursday night, BNP leader Nick Griffin will appear on the BBC’s leading current affairs programme “Question Time”, an appearance that has provoked much anger and debate.

Griffin is no stranger to the airwaves or TV screens, regularly appearing this week alone after four leading former generals attacked his party for using military imagery as part of its campaigning

But to some politicians, including Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Cabinet minister Peter Hain, the BBC’s decision to allow him on Question Time was totally wrong, giving a much higher profile platform to Griffin and his far-right views.

They also say that a recent court decision to order the BNP to open up its membership to non-whites meant the party broke race relations laws and was therefore unlawful.

One academic has said that a similar TV appearance by French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 1980s led to a huge increase in support for his Front National party, generating concern that Question Time will do the same for Griffin.

There is no doubt that support for the far-right is growing in Britain at the moment, although it remains very much at the fringes of mainstream politics. The BNP has dozens of councillors across the country, a seat in the London Assembly and most notably won two seats in European Parliamentary elections earlier this year.

BBC bosses argue that for that reason it is only right that Griffin is invited onto the flagship politcal show to answer questions about his party. They say it is for parliament and not for the broadcaster to censor political parties.

However former London mayor Ken Livingstone has warned that the BBC would bear moral responsibility for any rise in racial attacks, saying the presence of the BNP always led to a rise in such incidents.

Community relations experts have also expressed fear about the impact a rising far-right will have, especially in the run-up to what is predicted to be a tense election. However many say that trying to muzzle the BNP was counter-productive, and that the group should be challenged head on.

“I think we’ve got to have a more sophisticated approach to the far right where we do use reasoned arguments to defeat them because there’s no doubt in my mind that those reasoned arguments will work,” said Ted Cantle, who led the government’s review into the 2001 race riots for which the far-right was held partly responsible.

“I do feel they have to be taken on and defeated in the public eye. For the most part, their arguments are completely ridiculous and people have to see them for what they are,” he told Reuters. He said the unwelcome truth for mainstream politicians was that there was a “grain of truth” in some of the things the BNP said, and censoring them gave the impression this was being covered up.

However the Unite Against Fascism group said the BNP should not be treated like any ordinary political party because its views were racist (it campaigns for a halt to immigration, voluntary repatriation of immigrants and Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union).

“Griffin isn’t interested in impressing people with his arguments – he just wants to build the BNP by using Question Time as a platform to whip up race hatred and bigotry,” the group says.

Griffin himself says the “hysterical” furore over his appearance has already been a shot in the arm to his party. “I thank the political class and their allies for being so stupid,” he told the Times. “Thank you, Auntie.”

Reuters UK will be live blogging Griffin’s appearance on Question Time at 22.35 BST.


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I listened with growing frustration and anger at the interview on BBC Radio 5Live this morning between Mr. Slaughter and others and Mark Byford, the deputy Director General of the BBC concerning the invitation for the BNP to be part of tonight’s Question Time programme. I think that Mr Byford conducted himself with considerable restraint and consistency throughout the whole haranguing and personal abuse he received and would, if he were to stand for election, despite having little trust in any politician, vote for him against a thousand rabid Slaughters. The rest of the practically screaming mob who exhibited a mixture of hatred and jealousy were put to shame by his courage. Well Done Mark – I know it cost you. And since the deputy director general of the BBC publicly stated that Nick Griffin was invited to appear on Question Time, how can anyone claim that the BNP leader is using the platform to whip up hatred and bigotry? – I am sorry but it is the Unite Against Fascism Group that is doing that, undemocratically, since they don’t have a political party or a mandate from the British public, as does the BNP.

Posted by Michael Smitten | Report as abusive

During WWII Winston Churchill received a message from Adolf Hitler, where Hitler claimed that if Churchill did not surrender, then every subsequent death on both sides would be his responsibility.
I have just read that the former London mayor Ken Livingstone has warned that the BBC would bear moral responsibility for any rise in racial attacks, saying the presence of the BNP always led to a rise in such incidents.

I am glad Mr Churchill had the moral courage to resist such moral vacuity and hope the BBC will do the same.

Posted by Michael Smitten | Report as abusive

Nick Griffin is an odious man and I disagree with his views, but I defend his right to free speech. He is to appear on Question Time, so be it – let the panel and (I hope), calm audience expose him for what he is.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

For the first time in my life, I find myself in complete agreement with Calvin McKenzie who in an interview on News 24 has just said: “It’s not Mr Griffin we should worry about; it’s the people who vote for him.”

If democracy means that a country gets the governance it deserves rather than governanace which is good for it, then by all means he should appear. Frankly, if there is anyone else on the panel who cannot with ease confound and dismiss him and all his misleading arguments, then that person should carefully consider what they are doing pursuing a career in politics in the first place.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

The panel might have a go at Griffin’s dodgy past, but he will wipe the floor with them on policy. Griffin says he has changed. I believe him because I have to. If we leave it to the spineless Lib/Lab/Con we will have civil war in this country within 20 years. (if it hasn’t started already (7/7)

Posted by Stan Mason | Report as abusive

In the period leading up to Rememberance Sunday I simply ask the readers here and the wider Britih public to look around them and simply take note of who is wearing the poppy and who is not…..and then remember what will be said and undoubtedly infered tonight on Question Time….

Posted by Richard Baggaley | Report as abusive

Of course the BNP should be allowed to appear on Question Time. They are a legal political party and have elected politicians and a sizeable vote. The way to increase their popularity is to prevent them from appearing. Although very few people agree with their policies they have as much right to appear as the Greens, who have the same number of MEP’s. Livingstone, Hain and others on the left are completely naive if they believe that preventing them from having airtime will suppress them – quite the opposite is true.

Posted by David Dunem | Report as abusive

Whenever I watch Q.Time I am irritated by the leftie bias of Dimbleby. He lets Labour persons, such as Harman burble away plugging their policies whilst other panellists are given less time on air. Griffin although odious has the backing of many voters. The reason is simple, it is the betrayal of the working class by the present government. Cheap immigrant labour has taken its toll on their jobs along with the favourable treatment given to both those illegal & legal foreign nationals who reach our shores.Calais is the proof, with all those ‘clandestines’ waiting to cross the Channel to the land of plenty.

Posted by Mike Boyd | Report as abusive

Immigration is required to support the mass of ageing baby-boomers, because the UK ‘natives’ aren’t replacing themselves fast enough, and if they are, it’s in a sink of a council estate. How the UK got into this mess is because of Post WW2 ‘social engineering’, and New Labour is the tip of the ‘we can create a multicultural paradise on earth’ cycle. Something has to change, it already has. The BNP is not the problem, and not the solution. Go to the roots of the problem, if you have the strength.

Posted by Simon Drake | Report as abusive

Come on, you can’t just keep someone off the platform because you disagree with them. Think about the abortion debate, massively polarised but you still get the debate on TV and other media. Some people kill over this issue, but we still don’t ban the debate. Racism and xenophobia are hardly difficult issues to defeat in rational debate, so stop moaning and let’s watch the debate and laugh at the weak arguments.

That said, if Griffin serves to focus the debate about over-population and social dis-unity, then let’s get on with having THAT debate too. He’s certainly not part of the solution… but someone needs to think of one soon!

Posted by mark | Report as abusive

i think Nick Griffin should appear as he has been elected as a political leader of his party and i think the british public are fead up with the slogan fromthis Government BRITSH JOBS FOR BRITISH PEOPLE. This is clearly not the case. the governmentdo not have the funding to train british people and i work in the health sectoer.I am qualified and work extremely hard, But i am frustrated when Eatsern European and Asian people take my work and i do not have enough money to pay my bills and feed my children i work on the agency to work around my children and getr frustrated and angry when i do not have enough money to feed my children because my work is given to forigners.

Posted by lisa sainsbury | Report as abusive

Good luck to Nick Griffin tonight.Show Nu -Liebour for what it is.Lies ,lies and mores lies not to mention the rest with their expenses.

Posted by Bobby1999 | Report as abusive

Was Nick Griffin democratically elected? I believe so.
Then he has a right to be heard. Objectors
to his right to a voice are falling into the
trap that they wish the rest of us to avoid.
Please allow us the listeners the right to evaluate
his views – we can think for ourselves. After all what he offers are only words – not bombs or bullets. While I disagree with the BNP and Griffin on every issue I insist on his democratic rights to have his say. Objectors control yourselves and express yourselves democratically – not as thugs.

Posted by Joe Farrell | Report as abusive

Ken Livingstone is wrong in blaming the BBC that there could be a rise in racial attacks for allowing the BNP a place on Question Time. This is sheer desperation by Livingstone. Ted Cantle is right that by denying them a chance to be challenged it comes across as a cover up. In most traditional White working class areas like Dagenham and Barking where I live the local Whites have been sold out and in come the BNP attracting voters in whose front lawns a filthy Union Jack is placed, which by the look of it has not been washed in years. The popular cry is that the BNP needs to be exposed. If it is exposure we crave well lets expose the Tories and Labour for allowing things to slide towards this dark far right alley way. What has shocked me more than anything is the way the Far-Left have been behaving in recent months? The Far Right has them on the run in my opinion. If the UAF is against Fascist than why does it not challenge those Radicals demanding Sharia Law in this country? Where was the Anti-Nazi League when Abu Hamza was outside Finsbury Park Mosque? Out let’s such as the UAF are stuck in some 1960’s left wing liberalism dreaming about Woodstock & Flower Power they need to wake up. I am no friend of the BNP as an Asian I am there sworn enemy, but I believe that should be given this slot on Question Time as they should not be feared. It is the fear that people feel from the BNP that is leading many tonight to stand outside BBC Television Centre. Right wingers can say all that they want, but ultimately this type of politics always fails, because as humans we are all the same and this whole White superiority rubbish is just that rubbish.

Posted by Jag | Report as abusive

It is right that the BNP is on Question Time.

The BNP is no danger to the UK. It is the malevolent policies of the people who seek to muzzle it who are the real threat. The evidence of that is in the disastrous state of the country after 12 years of destruction by the Left.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

It is in the interest of “free speech” that Mr. Griffin should be invited to participate. Meeting a bogey head-on is better than slinking by. If perchance racist attacks were to be found to be on the increase, it would be quite absurd to blame the BBC.

Posted by John Nichols | Report as abusive

The UAF don’t care who they protest about, whether it be the BNP or the EDL. It’s the way they protest that convinces me this is a scurrilous organisation also.

The fact is that people are voting for the BNP, and I’ll be very surprised if they don’t pick up a seat or two at the next General Election. They’re already in Europe, and on quite a few councils, it’s the next step.

Those rivers of blood might not be too far off.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

Nick Griffen was sweaty, awkward and dishonest. The bloke is a nazi, period. Should he have appeared on question time? Why not. Anti-fascists need to think more strategically. The nazis won on the streets and the anti-fascists need to get back there. At the same time we don’t need elite metropolitans to legislate ‘no platform’ for us. We need people who can answer posh-nazis like Griffen with genuine grassroots credibility. I’d like to see Griffen go ten rounds with Bob Crow, someone who genuinely gives a toss about working people. For sure, the bnp are filling the void left by New Labour. That void needs contesting by a genuine grassroots movement, who offer more than patholical nostalgia and race hate. the record of bnp councillors has been pathetic. They are a one-trick party, but interesting because they do mobilise a real sense of grievance and fear. Of course, you can’t build a meaningful politics based on fear. Well you can, and last time it ended in the concentration camps. Like earlier goose marching fetishists, they are an indication of a real need to engage with genuine concerns ~ bankers greed, unemployment, marginalised council estates and the rest. Time for a new party.

Posted by John French | Report as abusive

Yes! BNP have a right to free speech, otherwise we are losing the foundations Britain was built on?

Its regrettable but my whole family has been forced by economic reasons to join the BNP. Their English/ British world has been stolen from them by incessant legal and illegal immigration. Where is Sir Winston Churchill, Admiral Lord Nelson and Iceni Warrior Queen Boudicca? My heritage, language and culture has been trodden into the feces by Brown and the labor party. The Conservatives are not that better. Bring on the British National Party. This would have been the last political organization, I would have accepted. This is insane and now our little island has been compromised by the demagogue Diplomats in Brussels.

Posted by Glenn1980 | Report as abusive

I really did not see what all the fuss was about in having the BNP on question time. Have they not been granted the status of ‘legitimate political party’?
To exclude them from a show which revolves around politics is to discriminate them, which is one thing they are being accused of themselves..

The UAF outside television centre shouting ‘all we want is peaceful protest’ whilst forcing their way into the reception area and disrupting the traffic on wood lane showed true hypocrisy. Trying to stop someone from using their freedom of speech is a little fascist is it not?

I’m not a supporter of the BNP by any means but they do argue a strong case in times like these. Homelessness and unemployment on the rise as is the amount of immigrants being issued work visa’s.

I think a capping on immigration is needed, the points system created by Australia should be in force here too. where it has taken months for my friend to organise a visa even though his wife is Australian. Our goverment says it is in place…. overcrowded cities tell a different tale.

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive

We can all see the problem and we have to ask why cannot the politicians see it just as clearly. Imigration has to stop and those who call for it to stop are cast in the unlikely guise of heros by most but villains by the few. The few are the loudest. Heros come in a mixed bag.The BNP, on the face of it on this subject, speak for the majority. For that reason alone people will vote for them.

Posted by Bryan Cheetham | Report as abusive

After experiencing first hand the dislocating and disorientating attempts at social engineering and economic manipulation of the past 20 years in the United Kingdom, I would suggest that there is more to fear from the misguided mindset and policies enacted by the current mainstream British political parties than to feel threatened in any way if I chose to listen to the views of Mr Griffen.

Posted by whatisafascist | Report as abusive

There have been plenty of unelected people that have appeared on Question Time over the years, the fact that they are a legitimate political party is neither here nor there.

They appear quite radical, the BNP, which is unfortunate because they cover a lot of what is wrong with this country. The whole race issue dominated last night, it was tantamount to sitting someone in the stocks & pelting him with tomatoes. We never got to hear his views on the economy or anything else.

He’s a very good orator is Nick Griffin, but if the BNP are to go forward then he needs to be removed from the party & a more moderate approach is needed.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

If we have to put up with the likes of Will Young pontificating on the issues of the day why not an elected MEP whose Party secured a million votes at the last European Elections. I was looking forward to hearing his views and the views of other panelists on the issues of the day, like the destruction of our Postal services and the strike to defend them. Sadly, all we got was a Pantomime in which Nick Griffin was cast as the villain.

Posted by Pat Harrington | Report as abusive