Tag Archives: leeds

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.

Harehills Labour? Again?

I realise I’m coming to this very late, but I’ve been busy. My first reaction when I heard that Labour had been allegedly caught out fixing postal votes in the Gipton and Harehills Ward in Leeds was “Harehills? Again?”. I’m amazed they’ve apparently been caught out doing this in a ward where their political rivals already consider them to have form. As well as being criminal, it would be surprisingly stupid.

In 2000-2002 I was campaign organiser for the Leeds Lib Dems. One of my abiding memories of that period were the increasingly bizarre stories coming out of the then-Harehills Ward. Maybe I’ll dig up the scan I have knocking about of the leaflet they were putting out in white areas about our Asian candidate at some point.

What shocked me most about the whole affair was how blase Leeds Labour were about it all. I remember in particular that the reaction from the Labour students was particularly complacent.

The most interesting thing about the Times sting for me therefore is the fact that Labour was apparently using students to do their dirty work. It makes me wonder if this is a new tactic, or whether its been standard practice for years. If the latter, then quite a lot of people, some of whom have gone on to do bigger and better things in the Labour Party, are now implicated.

It would be very interesting to see what those Labour students who reacted with a ‘so what?’ in 2002 have to say about this latest development.