Amidst all the fanfare and controversy surrounding Nick Griffin’s appearance yesterday on Question Time, I firmly believe that the BBC was mainly vindicated in its decision to invite him on the show. Not only were the public able to challenge his views on a platform watched by millions of viewers, but we were also able to hear some of his utterly contemptible opinions that, were it not for the show, would not have been heard on such a public forum.
For example, how many people before yesterday had known that Griffin had shared a platform with the Ku Klux Klan, and actually regarded them as ‘non-violent’? What about his views on the Holocaust? Or his view that homosexuals were ‘creepy’? At times Griffin resembled a rabbit caught in headlights, as he constantly contradicted himself and denied remarks he had made that were freely available on YouTube. When backed into a corner, his only response was that he had been ‘misquoted’; a brilliant euphemism that usually means that one has been exposed.
The big downside to the debate was the fact that it quickly became the ‘Nick Griffin show’, as four out of the five questions asked related to BNP policy. Where were his views on the economy? Climate change? MP’s expenses? Had these questions also been asked we could have possibly seen that not only was Griffin a racist, homophobic ,Holocaust denier, but that he was also an inept politician who had incoherent opinions on topics that have nothing to do with race or religion – but which are the topics which make a difference to people’s daily lives.
Another downside to the programme’s unrelenting focus on the BNP was that the BBC provided him with the opportunity to paint himself as a martyr under attack from the ‘Establishment’. This could have been avoided. Unfortunately, therefore, I fear that Griffin and his supporters will paint this as a conspiratorial attack on the ‘indigenous people’ of this country and a victory for the BNP, when in fact it was an, albeit small, victory for anti-racists and freedom of speech.
Talal Rajab is a Trainer and Consultant at the Quilliam Foundation