I’d rather have politicians interrogating the BNP than the BBC

The debate surrounding Nick Griffin’s imminent appearance on Question Time is hotting up. I’ve been intrigued by today’s events which, to cut a long story short, has resulted in Griffin suggesting that the army chiefs who have stood up to him today ought to be hanged.

It is an idiotic thing to day and something he will no doubt be challenged over on the programme on Thursday. And related to that, Sunny Hundal has some good suggestions of points that Griffin’s fellow panelists ought to challenge him with.

Here’s the thing though. I’m quite confident that Jack Straw, Chris Huhne, Bonnie Greer and even Sayeeda Warsi will be briefed up to the eyeballs and give Griffin a hard time. If anything, I’m worried that in their enthusiasm they may give the impression that he is being bullied. Sadly however, I don’t have the same confidence in the BBC to do the same, either before or afterwards.

The treatment meted out (or rather not) by Radio 1’s Newsbeat to Mark Collett and “Joey” perfectly encapsulates this. But generally, the BBC tends to talk up the chances of the BNP’s prospect and talk down quite why exactly they are “controversial”.

It isn’t just the BBC. The media generally tend to report the BNP as a phenomena without actually examining what they stand for in detail, leaving that to organisations such as the UAF, Hope not Hate and Nothing British.

My own encounter with Mark Collett was a case in point. A lifetime ago (well 2000-2002) I was the campaign organiser for the Leeds Lib Dems. Collett was standing in Harehills ward against one of our sitting councillors in a ward hotly contested by Labour. The Yorkshire Evening Post were obsessed with this, and convinced that Collett was about to march to victory. This despite the fact that the ward was only 60% white. They were putting him up on the front page every other day, screaming about an imminent BNP invasion. At one point, out of frustration, I bet a journalist that Collett would get less than 5% of the vote. Sadly we did not agree terms regarding money (I certainly needed it at the time): he got 3.8% of the vote (pdf).

The BNP are certainly a threat in Leeds now, having maneuvred themselves into the largely white parts of the borough. Their influx would have been slowed somewhat if only the media had been willing and able to keep some perspective.

So, far from condemning politicians who agree to go on Question Time, I’m hopeful that they will do a rather better job than the journalists who interview them – with less controversy – on a daily basis.


  1. So the Leader of the BNP thinks the Iraq war is an “illegal war”? In this he is joined by most Liberal Democrats, and fringe leftists like the Socialist Workers.

    But does this mean Mr Griffin supports those international organisations and treaties which might define what “illegal” means here? I thought the BNP was against that sort of thing.

    For the Socialist Workers to go on abour “illegal war” seems to me to be even more contradictory. No doubt Tsar Nicholas would say the Russian Revolution was an illegal revolution, and technically he would be right on that. Since when did socialist revolutionaries worry about what was legal?

    I think we might find that if a country decides to put a substantial minority of its population into gas chambers to kill them, it would be an “illegal war” to invade them to stop that, since that would be unwarranted interference. If not, then why was the Iraq War “illegal” given that Saddam Hussein was gassing many of his population?

    Until we have a proper democratic world authority, I’m a bit dubious about the concept of “(il)legal war”. I would prefer to talk about “(un)just war”. Those international bodies which define such things as “illegal war” tend to be more Trade Unions for world leaders than true world authorities. If they were the latter, they would on occasion be able to exert the will of the people over national leaders, which they can’t.

    If Mr Griffin thinks that generals should make political judgments and act against government instruction, well that’s a dangerous step, though one more logical for a fascist than for various others who also seem to be urging that on the matter of the Iraq war. That we Liberal Democrats understand that armies should not have independent political viewpoints and hence must obey government orders is why our viewpoint was (or at least Kennedy made it so, and I think he was correct in this)to support our troops as they went into Iraq, while continuing to believe politically the invasion was wrong.

    There needs to be rules of justice on how wars are fought, and that is where judgment against generals and their troops can take place. An army led to invade another country must obey the government order to do that, but not to use violence or cruelty beyond that necessary. “Invade the country” is an order the generals should not sit down and discuss as a political issue, they should do as told. “Invade the country, and have the troops rape the women” is an order the generals should refuse, and be held accountable for should they obey it.

    On the treatment of the BNP, I recall there was once a time when people would mock “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” as the sort of unacceptable political attitudes we civilized people would never sink to. So why do we become McCarthyite when it comes to the BNP? When Joseph McCarthy was asking this question, the Communist Party was supporting a vile regime that had murdered millions.

    It seems to me that however vile the BNP is, we should not be making any judgment on what appearance it gets as warranted by its electoral support. If it is vile, and I believe it is, it ought not to be difficult to show it up as such in political debate. The political establishment’s over-reaction to this whole thing has allowed the BNP to appear as martyrs, and as the only true opposition to the politcal establishment – at a time when the politcial establishment is widely reviled.

    How much better it would have been to have given the BNP fool the once-in-a-year slot he might be due from the number of votes his party gets, and quietly just showed him up as a fool by pointing out all the logical inconsistencies and twisting of facts behind what he says.

  2. “When Joseph McCarthy was asking this question, the Communist Party was supporting a vile regime that had murdered millions.”

    However, with the BNP it is not merely a question of implied support — it’s a question of the substance of their policies.

  3. “The BNP are certainly a threat in Leeds now, having maneuvred themselves into the largely white parts of the borough. Their influx would have been slowed somewhat if only the media had been willing and able to keep some perspective.”

    The best thing is for people in such communities to stand up and expose the Nazis for what they are. The one good thing about the recent BNP growth has been that at least people have become less apathetic about racism; true activism is coming back in.


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